Most people think about boundaries as rules you make to put other people on notice that you don’t like their behavior and want it to change. We create boundaries, often out of frustration and annoyance, hoping others will respond by changing their behaviors to better satisfy our needs and wishes.
But, as we know all too well, the only person’s behavior we have any control over is our own. And even then, we can’t always make ourselves do what we want or intend to do.
The truth always has been and always will be, we can make all the demands, pronouncements, and set all the boundaries in the world and other people will do just as they please.
Although sometimes they do make an effort to satisfy our needs and wishes, that effort is not typically a result of boundary setting but of honest, authentic discussion and the give and take that characterizes relationships that are functioning well.
A boundary requires that you state what YOU will do if the person continues that behavior. As in, “If you do X, I’ll do Y.”
It is not you telling that person how they must behave to earn your favor.
That’s why I explain boundaries like this: Boundaries are the rules we establish and follow that guide our own behavior. Not anyone else’s behavior. Their behavior is their business.
We decide for ourselves what we will and will not do and the conditions under which we will or will not do them. We decide how we want to engage with the world based on protecting and supporting our own values and our need for emotional, physical and psychological safety and comfort.
For instance, you have not created a boundary just by telling someone you want them to stop yelling at you when they are frustrated. It becomes a boundary not because you explain that you want them to stop or start a certain behavior, but when you allow them to be whomever they want to be, but ADD what you will do if they start yelling.
They are free to yell, yell their heads off if that’s what they want. It’s your response to their behavior that establishes the boundary.
For instance, you might say, “If you are frustrated, I would rather you express your feelings without yelling. If you start yelling at me, I will _____________.” Maybe you’d like to leave the room, go for a drive, close the door, whatever you think best protects your emotional, psychological and physical well-being.
That’s what establishing a boundary looks like.
Boundaries are not punishments or threats to force someone to change their behavior.
They are a tool you can use to care lovingly for yourself. Once you establish your boundaries, then you have a strategy that you will employ when yelling happens.
Wondering how to apply this tool to your relationship with food, your body and your weight?
Let’s take a look at that.
Treat yourself with the same compassion you would show a best friend.
First, you can create a list of rules for yourself that are supportive of your weight loss intentions.
Think long and hard about what you expect of yourself both when alone and when in the company of others. Next, decide on a follow up behavior if you or someone else disregards or ignores your intention.
If you realize you have disregarded a rule or behavior you established in order to follow your food plan, you can have a ready response that does not include your mean inner critic attacking. It can be as simple as forgoing a reward you might have established for following your plan, like listening to a favorite podcast, or holding off on adding funds to your mad money account.
When someone violates one of your own boundaries, it’s possible to react without anger or vitriol. It is possible to act with compassion and acceptance. It’s an if p then q kind of a situation.
I totally understand how hard it is to follow new rules and create new, supportive habits, but your needs, desires and intentions also deserve respect.
It is entirely up to you to respect them first. You need to develop the habit of having your own back.
The problem with people-pleasing and boundary violations.
So many women are non-stop people-pleasers. They just hate disapproval, to see a sad, disappointed or angry look on someone else’s face directed at them.
They’d rather say yes to avoid that discomfort. Even when they wish they had the courage to say no.
People-pleasing is manipulation and you’ll end up being resentful and angry. And that, dear friend, is your own fault.
Too many people-pleasers end up eating their resentment. We become mad at ourselves for constantly saying yes and constantly people-pleasing when we really want to say no. Often the harsh inner critic jumps in to add her two cents.
If you never say no because you’re afraid of what someone else would think about you and you say yes when you want to say no, that’s a lie.
Now you’ve set yourself up for boundary violations. By not telling the truth and not having self-respect, you basically create a situation where boundary violations are very easy.
Learn how to say no to others and, yes, even to yourself without negativity.
Saying no is something you have to get good at so you can get good at saying yes to the things that really matter to you.
When offered food or alcohol at a party, social event or gathering, do you take what’s offered for fear of offending the person offering? Do you eat foods outside of your food protocol because that’s what’s on the menu or being served?
When you say no, you are choosing to say no. When you don’t say no to something, you are choosing to do that thing that you haven’t said no to. Make sure you’re being really honest with yourself when it comes to choosing.
Have high expectations for yourself and avoid behaviors that undermine them.
Expect people to push food on you, criticize your food plan or your weight loss strategies.
When people tell you how to live your life, criticize you, tell you that you’re doing it wrong or that you should do it a different way, that’s not necessarily a boundary violation. That’s just them expressing their opinion.
But, if you don’t want to be around someone criticizing you or judging your choices, you can say to them, “You’re entitled to your opinions, but if you keep criticizing or judging my choices, I will have to ___________.” Leave. Hang up. End the conversation.
Set standards that support your goals and dreams and then uphold them.
You don’t have to come from a place of anger or exasperation, just confidence that you are doing you exactly the way you want..
Let others be wrong about you.
Can you just let other people have their opinions without setting a boundary?
You get to decide.
If it gets to the point where you feel like it’s so emotionally upsetting that you’re having to work on your thinking constantly when you’re with them then, by all means, set a boundary.
Other adults can say and do what they want. We can’t control them.
Our true power comes from understanding how to control ourselves.
All we can do is remove ourselves from any given situation that we don’t like.
Establishing boundaries with others is a piece of cake compared to establishing boundaries with ourselves.
When it comes to weight loss and our relationship with food and our bodies, we need boundaries and rules to follow to actually make weight loss easier.
I’d like to help you take a deep dive into boundary setting, appropriate consequences for boundary violations and how to apply boundary setting strategies to your weight loss journey.
Please share this post with someone you think could benefit from this message.
If you make a boundary request and you don’t follow through, you’ve actually only made an idle threat that diminishes your own self-respect and theirs for you. If I say, “Hey, if you guys don’t stop doing drugs, then I’m going to leave.” Then, they keep doing drugs and I don’t leave, I’ve just made an idle threat. If everyone starts taking off their clothes or let’s say everyone keeps swearing or whatever, I’ve basically set a boundary but I haven’t taken care of following through on that boundary for myself. That is my responsibility.
Now, that is the most common reason people do not set boundaries, because they do not want to follow through on the consequence is what we call it. If you blank, then I will. Here’s why it’s so difficult for most of us. Remember what I said at the beginning of the podcast? Most of us end up in boundary violation situations because we keep letting our neighbor come in our front door without asking. Then, we start resenting it, we start getting mad so then we have to go to the neighbor and be like, “Hey, you have to knock before you come over. You have to call before you come over.”