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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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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