Monday, April 30, 2012

Set Your Boundaries

What does it mean to set boundaries? I asked professors and peers to explain boundaries but no one told me anything concrete to really clarify the term. So, I observed people who seemed healthy and well-adjusted and I listened carefully to them. I watched other people make themselves and their needs top priority and gradually I began to get some idea of what people meant by “clear, firm boundaries.”

Having boundaries means feeling good about ourselves and setting clear limits with others. It means saying what we really mean and then sticking to it. It means not allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of and expressing our true feelings. It means taking responsibility for ourselves and our feelings and not for everyone else and their feelings. In short, it means being true to ourselves.

This is important for each of us to consider. If we do not understand what “ healthy boundaries” are we will not be able create them and maintain them. If we don’t create and maintain them, we will feel confused, unhappy and anxious and, we are likely to search for food to anesthetize ourselves and soothe our discomfort. Having clear, healthy boundaries is essential to feeling in control of our lives and to eliminating compulsive eating behavior permanently.

Having healthy boundaries means so many things. It means trusting appropriately. It means entering into and building any relationship step by step. Sometimes we may think in black and white terms, either not trusting at all or trusting completely before we really get to know the other person. When we have clear boundaries, we go slowly and move into any relationship paying careful attention to our inner voices. We don’t distrust or fully trust immediately. We become intimate one step at a time, all the while asking ourselves if this is a healthy connection for us to put our energy into

We respect ourselves. We weigh the consequences of our actions and maintain our personal values whether others agree with them or not. We become sexually involved only when we feel comfortable doing so. We say “no” to any advance, touch, sex, gift, food, etc. that we don’t want and we ask another before touching them. We do not take advantage of, or exploit others, in any way. We clearly communicate our wants and our needs and we treat ourselves and others fairly and lovingly.

Being clear means talking to ourselves and others gently, honestly, assertively, respectfully and lovingly. It means staying centered on ourselves and nurturing a positive attitude. It means using our sense of humor and being our own loving, nurturing parent. If we fail to do these things, life is murky and difficult much of the time.

Because women are socialized to be passive, to please others, and to put personal needs aside, being assertive and clear does not come easily. Some have trouble at first just saying the word “no.” Even though it may seem awkward or scary at first, it is crucial to be true to yourself and to set boundaries that feel appropriate and safe for you. If you do not, you will continue to eat your way through the confusing and painful feelings you will experience.

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