Personal Boundaries: The Ultimate Selfcare

Jade Carpenter on the best way to take control of your life - setting limits.


“Boundary” has become a bit of a self-care buzz word these days. We have been learning that creating boundaries for situations that make you uncomfortable or anxious is really helpful. But most of the time, we hear about setting boundaries with other people and things, like with your partner or your job. And although these healthy boundaries are needed and great tools to have, there is one boundary that is often overlooked. The boundary with ourselves. 

At the end of the day, who can control your feelings better than yourself? If you’re putting your emotions in someone or something else’s hands, you don’t have full control. Yes, it is important to establish these types of boundaries in our lives, but some situations need action from ourselves for ourselves, and this just isn’t talked about enough.  

POV: You are convinced to go out after work every-other night and end up spending a lot more money than you intend to, imagine the dread of checking your bank account every day? You could find yourself saying to your co-workers, “don’t let me do that again”. But in reality, they want you to do it again, if they want a drinking buddy, they are going to try to entice you again and the same situation will happen if you put your boundary in their hands.  

Whereas if you start telling yourself, “I’m only going to go for drinks after work on a Friday”, it is then in your own hands to take yourself out of a situation that’ll leave you broke and probably with a banging headache. 

 

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These self-boundaries are about more than money, they are about focussing on what’s important to you in life and not letting things that make you feel uneasy get in the way. Saying yes when you’d rather say no in many situations may call for a boundary so you can live your life exactly how you want to. 

On the Podcast The Self Love Fix, host Beatrice Kamau likens this topic to “becoming a healthy parental figure to yourself”. I thought this was a great way to put it, you know all those nuggets of wisdom that come from the elders in your life? The ones that are somewhat eyeroll-inducing but you secretly know are right? “Don’t spend too much time on your phone”, “Bring a jacket”, “You need to give yourself a break”, all valid points, but we often don’t listen until it’s too late. 

If you are able to become this for yourself, even if you never had it growing up, you’ll get better at ‘obeying’ your own boundaries, because they are put in place by you to benefit you. And who can argue with that logic? 

Dr Clodagh Campbell, The Wellness Psychologist (@the.wellness.psychologist) shares her insight on the importance of boundaries and how to detect when they may be needed, “The purpose of having boundaries is to protect us, to keep us safe and to help us care for ourselves. It’s like our level of comfort around others or with ourselves… 

“Whether it’s putting boundaries in place for how we treat ourselves or putting boundaries in place for how we treat others or how we engage with the world around us, I think it’s essentially the same thing.” 

“If we were considering boundaries with ourselves, it might be how we allow ourselves to speak to ourselves. And similarly, we might put a boundary in place with other people, how we allow them to speak to us, so it’s very linked,” she explains. 

Would you allow other people to speak to you the way you speak to yourself? If the answer is no, it’s time to look at your self-talk. 

Dr Clodagh explains that a lot of the time, our bodies tell us when something isn’t right. Whether it’s a physical alert like a stomach knot, a pounding heartbeat or an emotion that raises concern like anger. There’s a reason behind these feelings and identifying the ‘why’ can help you to avoid or manage similar situations in future. 

When we cause these feelings for ourselves, we can be too busy to take the time to consider why it is happening because we can’t easily pin it to something external. 

These feelings can come out in our actions sometimes too, we could find ourselves lashing out or picking fights with those closest to us that aren’t actually all that important. You know that argument from nine months ago you bring up every so often? Yeah… there may be more to your feelings on that. 

Dr Clodagh explains, “My biggest tip would be to give yourself some time and space to consider what’s after happening. Often, we don’t do that because our lives are so busy…Secondly, I think journaling can be so valuable for creating awareness for anything. When we write down it can really help us to tap into a different part of consciousness that helps to gain understanding, perspective and awareness for why we’re behaving the way we are, what’s going on for us, our thoughts and feelings if we are feeling triggered.”  

“Along with that, therapy can be really helpful for creating some space, asking yourself some hard questions and somebody’s there to guide you through it. Often, we don’t want to ask ourselves these questions,” she adds. 

Setting boundaries shouldn’t feel like a ‘punishment’ or something you’re not allowing yourself to do. It is actually the ultimate form of self-care! Flip the mentality and think of all the ways that setting and keeping your own boundaries can be something you thank yourself for and enjoy the process. You’re actually bettering your life, your relationships and your mood, even if you don’t feel it right away. 

 

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For some people, setting a boundary might mean making sure they give themselves time to relax and watch their favourite show guilt-free, to take the bath or to get into bed at 9pm. We all think of these things when we hear the words self-care but boundaries and ensuring we allow ourselves to take care of us is the starting point. 

And if you feel like you’d struggle to be your own discipline, don’t worry, committing to your boundaries isn’t an overnight thing. It can take years to completely kick an unhealthy habit or mindset and that’s totally normal.  

Dr Clodagh says, “Setting boundaries is really hard and it can be linked to our self-worth and our self-esteem. But if you’ve been behaving a certain way your whole life and you’re trying to establish a boundary, the chances are you’re going to fall off the bandwagon, so you have to be really compassionate and gentle with yourself if that happens. And then try to get back on the bandwagon without having the ‘F*ck it’ mentality of ‘I’ve completely ruined it for myself now.” 

The process of realising the need for a boundary and beginning that journey is the first step and arguably the most important. Healing is not linear, but every step is progress. 

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