Why are emotional boundaries important?
Ever found it really stinking hard to simply say no even when you really should, or heck, just want to? Or you do say no and then follow it with a long list of excuses that you are going to have to note to memory so that you don’t get called out later because your daughter “has a soccer game” and you’re praying they never find out that your daughter doesn’t even play soccer?
Then you my friend have struggled with emotional boundaries.
Let me start by saying Sis, I’ve been there and I’m still working to perfect the illusive art that is saying no period. No excuses.
The question of the importance of boundaries is one I hear a lot, especially from women who have grown up with a parent or parents who did not have solid emotional boundaries in place to model to them.
Unfortunately, the fact is that, for many women, setting boundaries does not rank high on the list of things that they excel at. Here’s the thing, it’s not their fault because they don’t know better, until they do…
From the time we are old enough to hold a baby doll, we are taught to sacrifice our own wants, needs and resources to pour into others. When is the last time you heard someone tell that 5 year old little girl that it’s okay to let her friend take a turn watching her baby doll so that she can go read a book, have a nice warm bubble bath or a tea party with her favorite stuffed animals?
Sounds odd doesn’t it? But consider what we tell her. She is a good Mommy for taking care of her baby. The pretend food she makes is amazing, can we have more?
Before you start feeling bad about all the times you have said these things to the little girl in your life, realize I’m simply illustrating a point not literally condemning you for pretending to love play doh pizza.
So what does it actually mean to set healthy emotional boundaries?
(I know, when I first learned about this term it seemed like one of those things you hear from a therapist while laying, not so comfortably, sobbing on a couch in their office. Am I right?)
Emotional boundaries simply allow you to separate your feelings from those of others.
In other words, they allow you to NOT take responsibility for the feelings and actions of others.
As I tell my children “You control how you react.”
Since we have zero control over the thoughts and actions of others, we cannot take responsibility for how they feel. This is not to say that we should not apologize if we hurt someone or stop being considerate, rather that we give ourselves permission to take our own thoughts, feelings and personal schedules into account when determining whether we allow someone else to take up the most precious asset we own, the only one we cannot get back…our time.
Just as precious a commodity, if not more than our time is our head space. Most have not yet learned to set boundaries around what we allow to consume our thoughts and turn into our inner monologue. The repercussions of this are devastating, yet often go undocumented as emotional scars are largely invisible until they are extreme.
Another thing we are taught at a young age is to be nice to others, but when others are not nice to us we are taught to brush it off, that it doesn’t matter or whatever the narrative is, but it is rare to hear someone teach their children emotional boundaries around what others tell them.
Let me put this into into a quick scenario to illustrate…
Someone corners your child and tells them that they are stupid and slow and no one wants to be their friend.
If this happens enough, this child’s inner voice will start to mimic what they were told and therefore accepted and any time they go to do something that consciously or subconsciously triggers this memory, their inner voice will simply repeat what was programmed. That they are stupid and slow and no one wants to be their friend. You may be surprised how often seemingly small memory patterns like this have huge impacts on one’s ability to accomplish future goals.
Now lets consider what would happen if this child was given four simple words to tell those bullies and at the same time tell their emotional brain in order to protect themselves from a potential lifetime of repeated negative cycles this pattern just might have created.
Four simple words: “I don’t receive that.”
If this is their response every time they hear something they know not to be true about themselves and they train their brains to respond in this way, they are doing two things, protecting themselves from these ugly words becoming a part of their inner dialogue and letting the other person know that their behavior is not being accepted. (It’s much less fun for the bully when they are not getting their desired outcome.)
I have found this simple statement incredibly affective in my adult life and am very grateful to be able to pass it to my children at a very young age.
Now back to your ability to say no.
Remember our little girl with the baby doll? Now give her a pretend husband, a few more kids, maybe a dog and job running a lemonade stand. Buy her a pretend washer and dryer, a play house she needs to keep clean and organized and enroll her in a few extra curricular activities, oh and make sure she makes time for all of her friends at school and family events. Sound familiar?
All of a sudden that little girl maybe sounds a lot like someone you may know? Now throw in that charity event or the invite to be home room mom or yearbook chair of the PTA and it’s a recipe for a stressed out, strung out woman that doesn’t know which way is up and is constantly in survival mode.
I’d be willing to bet that there may be a silent…or not so silent tear held back the next time a friend calls and asks her to coffee or God forbid a girl’s night out that she has to decline yet again. Where did her simple life of simply playing with her baby dolls go? It was torn apart slowly with every obligatory yes.
Starting to see the immense value in that little two letter word yet? Let me be the first one in a while to tell you, it’s okay and even down right necessary to schedule time in your day just for yourself and to protect that time like your life depends on it…because it actually does.
I’ll spare you the ole’ fill your cup first lecture this time, but you have to promise me that the next time someone asks you for a yes that would cause you to say no to your sanity, even for one moment, you will exercise your right to say no to them and yes to yourself because you my friend are worth it.
….oh and when that little voice in your head starts to make you feel guilty for saying no, picture the stressed out version of you that would show up to that "one little extra yes" and realize that she would do no one any good other than to give the fuel for their next gossip sesh about “Susie’s Mommy the crazy lady who cried in her mashed potatoes at the teacher appreciation luncheon.”
Don't be the lady that cries in her mashed potatoes!
I’ll say it one more time for those in the back…when you say no to others so that you can say yes to yourself you may be surprised how fast you take your life and purpose back into your own hands.
If your inner monologue has been affected in any way by emotional abuse in your past please know that I understand and the negative patterns that may have created for you don't have to be permanent! Click here to get my free guide The Confidence Key - Unlock freedom from the one thing holding you back after emotional abuse.