Healthy Personal Boundaries: 18 Ideas for Conditions of Entry to Your Tribe

Healthy Personal Boundaries: 18 Ways to Set and Protect (Image Credit: Unsplash S Zolkin)

The only criteria for joining the human race is birth. Pity. Because with a few tweaks to the membership rules – like, say, the existence of said rules – the human race would be extraordinary. Parts of it already are of course, but parts of it suck. Perhaps there is a more eloquent description but that word rolls from me like marbles across glass and it’s not rolling back. So that’s the word it is.

[bctt tweet=”We can’t influence who joins the human tribe but we can influence who joins ours…”]

We can’t influence who joins the human tribe but we can influence which humans join ours. Here are some rules to think about for setting healthy personal boundaries. They’re more a guideline than a set of rules because like any rules, some of them can handle being bent a little, some a lot and some of them snap beyond repair at the slightest hint of infraction:

  1. Don’t compare me.

    Parts of me will be better, the same or worse than anyone else you know, but the combination of those parts, as with everyone else on the planet, will be unique. I fight against my own temptation to compare. I don’t want to have to fight against yours. 

  1. Don’t try to change me.

    The person I am is a collection of dismal falls, extraordinary flights and everything in between. I’m so far from perfect I can’t even see the directions from here, but at any time I’m the best I can be. I love when that’s enough for you – love it – but if you don’t like who I am you are under no obligation to stay. I won’t judge you for leaving but I will judge you for staying in the hope that you can make me into something else.

  2. Don’t judge me.

    There will be times I disappoint you. Sometimes because I’m wrong and sometimes because we disagree on what’s right. Then there will be those times that you disappoint me. None of us are perfect. Don’t judge me because my shortfalls are different to yours.

  3. Be crazy honest with me.

    There are so many different versions of the truth and it makes my world breathe that you you trust me with yours. If it should one day get to the point where you don’t believe what you’re telling me, then the truth is you’re wasting my time.

  4. Listen to me. 

    I don’t need your undivided attention all the time. I don’t even need it most of the time. But but when it’s important, listen. Put down your phone and turn towards me. Listen and ask me questions. Notice me. Of course, there’ll be times I just ramble about nothing in particular – ramble with me or just sit beside me. Those ones are up to you. It will just be good to have you around, happy with me being me.

  5. Be genuine.

    It’s the real you I opened the door to. Trust me enough to be yourself when you’re around me. If you need to be anything else, then you probably need to leave. Pretending will drain both of us soon enough.

  1. Share our emotional resources.

    Because sometimes it will be about you. Sometimes it will be about me. Sometimes you’ll need to talk. Sometimes you’ll need to listen. Sometimes I’ll want you to smother my insecurities with affection. And sometimes I’ll want to do the same for you.

  2. Appreciate me. And let me know if I miss a beat. 

    Understand that I give what I give and do what I do because I want to, not because you’re entitled to it. If you’re feeling unappreciated by me, let me know so I can put it right. Sometimes I might take you for granted. Not because it’s how I feel but because sometimes life gets in the way of me appreciating what’s important. I can be ‘not-great’ like that, but if you’re part of my tribe then you matter and I’ll do whatever I need to do to turn it around. 

  3. Don’t criticise me. Because it will never be ‘constructive’.

    Criticism is criticism. Fullstop. Of course, if I ask you for your honest opinion then go for it. Otherwise, it’s just fuel for a long-burning fire. I know my flaws. I’ve been living with them for a while. I have my insecurities under control but I’m only human and the right amount of criticism will always be able to fuel that fire. Let me know if something I do hurts you, otherwise, leave it alone.  

  4. Celebrate my wins.

    It will mean the world to me. There are plenty of people who find it easier to be a hero in someone else’s tragedy than to cheer when someone is soaring. Don’t be one of them. And when you’re flying higher than the flock, I’ll be your biggest fan.

  5. It’s okay to disagree.

    We don’t have to agree on everything. In fact, your spirit will be one of the things I admire. Trust that I’ll cope without your constant approval. Honestly. I’ll be fine.

  6. Be loyal.

    Don’t gossip about me and know how to keep my secrets. If I’m sharing them with you, it’s because I trust you – you’re one of the chosen few.

  7. Know how to apologise. And how to accept mine.

    Forgive me when I get it wrong – which I will sometimes – and know that I will always do my best to put it right. Letting it go means you would rather stay connected with me than score points over me. And that’s why you’re part of my tribe.  

  8. Keep your promises.

    If you can’t keep them. Don’t make them. It’s really that simple.

  9. Talk to me.

    About all sorts of things but especially about the things that matter. If I’m going to be in this, I’m in it at the deep end. Talk to me about what’s keeping you up at night and about what’s lighting the fire in your soul. Not everything we talk about needs to be deep, but know that I can only talk to you about the weather for so long before it feels like we’re only pretending.

  10. Be curious.

    Don’t be afraid to want to know more. Be curious about my day, my week, my life and me. It will mean something to me that you care enough to ask.

  11. Sometimes silence is perfect. 

    We don’t always have to talk If you can talk with me as easily as you can sit in silence with me, you’re a keeper.

  12. Laugh with me.

    Because I’ve never met a laugh I didn’t like.

These rules don’t exist as a numbered checklist to be whipped out just after the first ‘hello’. (If only it was as easy as that!) They’re the rules – before now unwritten – that I use for setting boundaries so I can be more deliberate about those I spend time with. 

I want people who I can be myself around and who can be themselves around me.  That doesn’t mean I’ll be close to everyone I meet – far from it – but there are too many amazing people in this world to spend time with those who dampen. Boundaries set the benchmark, and make way for more deliberate decisions about the cherished part of the circle – because we all deserve to be with those who give us flight.

What are the rules you set your boundaries by? There are no right or wrong ones and we’d love to hear about yours.

(Image Credit: Unsplash. S Zolkin)

2 Comments

Rick

There’s a quote somewhere: “Truth without compassion is cruelty.” Feedback is an important learning tool, and the time, place, way, and relationship all affect the receptivity of the feedback. Who’s needs are being worked on?

Reply
Mike Mckay

I liked most of this but some of the boundaries blur quite severely

“a judgement” is also an opinion, its also a criticism, its often also constructive because people CANT always see their own poor habits clearly, thats why they keep doing them over and over and they are also going to be crazy honest too

Its this kind of “do what I want when i want it” confusion that stops people from communicating effectively

Either you want the truth or you dont

Sometimes the truth will “feel” judgmental, but thats a total misnomer and almost a passive aggressive statement anyway

Saying someone looks beautiful is being “judgemental”, every opinion, view and outlook about someone is a judgement its just word play where people selectively use ones like judgemental when its stuff they dont want to hear, and rarely is connected to whether or not its true

I used to say as a throw away one line

“Other people are judgemental, but I just have opinions”

But sadly the irony in that used to go over a lot of peoples heads

But obviously none of this is a judgement or constructive criticism I am just sharing an opinion lol

Its easy to overthink things and subdivide things to the point where your own rules for discerning them are so complex even you struggle to categorise things never mind anyone else being able to segregate them

Truth is truth, sometimes it hurts, sometimes we arent ready to hear it, sometimes it will be just what we want to hear

but thats on us, not the person saying it

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Today was an ending and a beginning. My darling girl finished year 12. The final year at school is tough enough, but this year was seismic. Our teens have moved through this year with the most outstanding courage and grace and strength, and now it is time for them to rest and play. My gosh they deserve it. 

It is true that this is a time of celebration, but it can also be an intense time of self-reflection for our teens. (I can remember the same feelings when my gorgeous boy finished so many years ago!) My daughter has described it as, ‘I feel as though I’ve outgrown myself but my new self isn’t ready yet.’ This just makes so much sense. 

There is a beautifully fertile void that is waiting for whatever comes next for each of them, but that void is still a void. At different times it might feel exciting, overwhelming, or brutal in its emptiness.

We also have to remember that this is a time of letting go, and there might be grief that comes with that. Before they can grab on to their next big adventure, they have to let go of the guard rails. This means gently adjusting their hold on the world they have known for the last 12+ years, with its places and routines and people that have felt like home on so many days. There will be redirects and shiftings, and through it all the things that need to stay will stay, and the things that need to adjust will adjust. 

To my darling girl, your loved incredible friends, and the teens who make our world what it is - you are the beautiful  thinkers, the big feelers, the creators, the change makers, and the ones who will craft and grow a better world. However you might feel now, the lights are waiting to shine for you and because of you. The world beyond school is opening its arms to you. That opening might happen quickly, or gently, or smoothly or chaotically, but it will happen. This world needs every one of you - your voices, your spirits, your fire, your softness, your strength and your power. You are world-ready, and we are so glad you are here xxx
When our kids or teens are in high emotion, their words might sound anxious, angry, inconsolable, jealous, defiant. As messy as the words might be, they have a good reason for being there. Big feelings surge as a way to influence the environment to meet a need. Of course, sometimes the fallout from this can be nuclear.
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Wherever there is a big emotion, there will always be an important need behind it - safety, comfort, attention, food, rest, connection. The need will always be valid, even if the way they’re going about meeting it is a little rough. As with so many difficult parenting moments, there will be gold in the middle of the mess if we know where to look. 
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There will be times for shaping the behaviour into a healthier response, but in the middle of a big feeling is not one of those times. Big feelings are NOT a sign of dysfunction, bad kids or bad parenting. They are a part of being human, and they bring rich opportunities for wisdom, learning and growth. .
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Parenting isn’t about stopping the emotional storms, but about moving through the storm and reaching the other side in a way that preserves the opportunity for our kids and teens to learn and grow from the experience - and they will always learn best from experience. 
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To calm a big feeling, name what you see, ‘I can see you’re disappointed. I know how much you wanted that’, or, ‘I can see this feels big for you,’ or, ‘You’re angry at me about .. aren’t you. I understand that. I would be mad too if I had to […],’ or ‘It sounds like today has been a really hard day.’ 
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When we connect with the emotion, we help soothe the nervous system. The emotion has done its job, found support, and can start to ease. 
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When they ‘let go’ they’re letting us in on their deepest and most honest emotional selves. We don’t need to change that. What we need to do is meet them where they and gently guide them from there. When they feel seen and understood, their trust in us and their connection to us will deepen, opening the way for our influence.
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When they are at that line, deciding whether to retreat to safety or move forward into brave, there will be a part of them that will know they have what it takes to be brave. It might be pale, or quiet, or a little tumbled by the noise from anxiety, but it will be there. And it will be magical. Our job as their flight crew is to clear the way for this magical part of them to rise. ‘I can see this feels scary for you - and I know you can do this.’ 
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When our kids or teens are struggling, it can be hard to know what they need. It can also be hard for them to say. It can be this way for all of us - we don't always know what we need from the people around us. It might be space, or distraction, or silence, or maybe acknowledging and being there is enough. Sometimes we might need to know that the people we love aren't taking our need for space, or our confusion or anger or sadness personally, and that they are still there within reach.
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What can be easier is thinking about what other people might need. Asking this when they are calm can invite a different perspective and can give you some insight into what they need to hear when they are going through similar. Don't worry if you just get a shrug, or a disheartened, 'I don't know'. They don't need to know, and neither do we. The question in itself might be enough to open a new way through any sense of 'stuckness' or helplessness they might be feeling.
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Give them space to talk but you don’t need to fix anything. You’ll want to, but the answers are in them, not us. Sometimes the answer will be to feel it out, or push for change, or feel the futility of it all so the feeling can let go, knowing it’s done it’s job - it’s recruited support, or raised awareness that something isn’t right.

Sometimes the feelings might be seismic but the words might be gone for a while. That’s okay too. Do they want to start with whatever words are there? Or talk about something else? Or go for a walk with you? Watch a movie with you? Or do a spontaneous, unnecessary drive thru with you just because you can - no words, no need to explain - just you and them and car music for the next 20 minutes. 

The more you can validate what they’re feeling (maybe, ‘Today was big for you wasn’t it’) and give them space to feel, the more they can feel the feeling, understand the need that’s fuelling it, and experiment with ways to deal with it. Sometimes, ‘dealing with it’ might mean acknowledging that there is something that feels big or important and a little out of reach right now, and feeling the fullness and futility of that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days are rubbish, and that sometimes those days last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. But the learning comes from experience.

I wish our kids never felt pain, but we don’t get to decide that. We don’t get to decide how our children grow, but we do get to decide how much space and support we give them for this growth. We can love them through it but we can’t love them out of it. I wish we could but we can’t.

So instead of feeling the need to silence their pain, make space for it. In the end we have no choice. Sometimes all the love in the world won’t be enough to put the wrong things right, but it can help them feel held while they move through the pain enough to find their out breath, and the strength that comes with that.♥️

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