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 shows up to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that you’re not. It’s your brain’s way of saying, ‘Not sure - there might be some trouble here, but there might not be, but just in case you should be ready for it if it comes, which it might not – but just in case you’d better be ready to run or fight – but it might be totally fine.’ Brains can be so confusing sometimes! 

You have a brain that is strong, healthy and hardworking. It’s magnificent and it’s doing a brilliant job of doing exactly what brains are meant to do – keep you alive. 

Your brain is fabulous, but it needs you to be the boss. Here’s how. When you feel anxious, ask yourself two questions:

- ‘Do I feel like this because I’m in danger or because there’s something brave or important I need to do?’

- Then, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe (sometimes it might be) or is this a time for me to be brave?

And remember, you will always have ‘brave’ in you, and anxiety doesn’t change that a bit.♥️

#positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #parenting #childanxiety #heywarrior #heywarriorbook
The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️

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