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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Sometimes needs will come into being like falling stars - gently fading in and fading out. Sometimes they will happen like meteors - crashing through the air with force and fury. But they won’t always look like needs. Often they will look like big, unreachable, unfathomable behaviour. 

If needs and feelings are too big for words, they will speak through behaviour. Behaviour is the language of needs and feelings, and it is always a call for us to come closer. Big feelings happen as a way to recruit support to help carry an emotional load that feels too big for our kids and teens. We can help with this load by being a strong, calm, loving presence, and making space for that feeling or need to be ‘heard’. 

When big behaviour or big feelings are happening, whenever you can be curious about the need behind it. There will always be a valid one. Meet them where they without needing them to be different. Breathe, validate, and be with, and you don’t need to do more than that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days and some things are rubbish, and that sometimes those days and things 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. They can’t learn to manage big feelings unless they have big feelings. They can’t learn to read the needs behind their feelings if they don’t have the space to let those big feelings come back to small enough so the needs behind them can step forward. 

When their world has spikes, and when we give them a soft space to ‘be’, we ventilate their world. We help them find room for their out breath, and for influence, and for their wisdom to grow from their experiences and ours. In the end we have no choice. They will always be stronger and bigger and wiser and braver when they are with you, than when they are without. It’s just how it is.♥️
When kids or teens have big feelings, what they need more than anything is our strong, safe, loving presence. In those moments, it’s less about what we do in response to those big feelings, and more about who we are. Think of this like providing a shelter and gentle guidance for their distressed nervous system to help it find its way home, back to calm. 

Big feelings are the way the brain calls for support. It’s as though it’s saying, ‘This emotional load is too big for me to carry on my own. Can you help me carry it?’ 

Every time we meet them where they are, with a calm loving presence, we help those big feelings back to small enough. We help them carry the emotional load and build the emotional (neural) muscle for them to eventually be able to do it on their own. We strengthen the neural pathways between big feelings and calm, over and over, until that pathway is so clear and so strong, they can walk it on their own. 

Big beautiful neural pathways will let them do big, beautiful things - courage, resilience, independence, self regulation. Those pathways are only built through experience, so before children and teens can do any of this on their own, they’ll have to walk the pathway plenty of times with a strong, calm loving adult. Self-regulation only comes from many experiences of co-regulation. 

When they are calm and connected to us, then we can have the conversations that are growthful for them - ‘Can you help me understand what happened?’ ‘What can help you so this differently next time?’ ‘How can you put things right? Do you need my help to do that?’ We grow them by ‘doing with’ them♥️
Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare

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