Wise women tell us there’s plenty of wisdom to be had about the role of boundaries in our lives. Brene Brown says, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” And I’ve frequently heard our own April Bordeau profess, “Generosity without boundaries is a breeding ground for resentment.”

Boundaries aren’t a way of telling others we don’t like them. They help us take better care of ourselves, so we can be there for others in constructive ways. Can you remember a time you felt someone took advantage of you? There’s that feeling you got when you realized someone was taking you for granted (again). Or when someone was getting so deeply into your personal life it felt like surgery without anesthesia? Someone crossed a boundary.

There’s a funny thing about those boundaries. Nobody else can see them unless you point them out. You’ve never spoken up about yours, and I can say without having known you personally, every time you’ve felt resentment, hurt, anger, or burnout, it’s likely good boundaries could have kept it from happening. Healthy boundaries lead to a healthy mindset.

What is a boundary? It’s the point where you go from being able to tolerate a situation to wanting to be absolutely anywhere else. And you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or make them not like you. Then the resentment, hurt, anger, burnout thing happens. If your mother-in-law realized she didn’t have a right to get in your face about cooking and cleaning, she wouldn’t do it anymore. That co-worker who always makes you pick up the slack? He’ll do it just one more time. Because you’ll educate him in a candid, nonthreatening way. After all, you aren’t responsible for his response or emotion.

Where should you build boundaries? Everywhere. Where you’re not willing to invest any additional emotional energy. How much you want to be in charge of deciding how you’ll use your time. The place where people you don’t want in your personal space are nosing their way in. Where kindness become frustration. What you’ll post on social media … and what you’ll read. Even church (where you’ve just volunteered for the third week in a row).

Knowing and sharing your boundaries will help you approach life with significantly more confidence. Compassion, too, because learning to forgive ourselves helps us become more patient and accepting of others … without letting any of them manipulate us.

If all this sounds a little too familiar, one of our counselors can help you better understand your own boundaries and show you ways you can share them with confidence and without regret. You may even find yourself smiling more often. Contact us today.

Michelle Alexander is serving as an intern at Care to Change as she completes the Clinical Mental Health Counseling master’s degree program at Indiana Wesleyan University.

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