To create or not to create boundaries…it’s not a question…you must create boundaries.

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Reflecting upon what you want and need from yourself and your family during the holiday season or any time of year is imperative.

When I say “what you want and need” I’m talking about determining how you want to behave when you’re around your family and what behavior from your family you’re willing and not willing to tolerate.

Many times we assume because “its our family” we have to excuse or tolerate words and behavior that we would never excuse or tolerate from our friends. Not true. As I mentioned last week the beauty of being an adult is YOU get to decide what is OK and not OK for you.

Now that you know what you want and need from your family, it’s time to work on those boundaries.

This week’s topic: Start defining your boundaries

Before we start defining our boundaries let’s let’s back up and talk about the best way to think about boundaries.

We build fences around our yards so our pets can’t run into the street. We create password after password to protect our money. We put tarps on our cars when it rains so the paint job stays looking brand new.

When we can physically see a wall or fence right in front of us it’s easy to understand and think about boundaries because there is an actual physical thing right in front of your face that you can see and touch.

So when someone opens our front gate and walks up to our front door we’re aware right away that someone is pushing or violating a boundary. We understand how to react and depending on our familiarity with this person walking on our property we know if we should guard ourselves and take precautions or if we can relax and invite that person into our home.

The boundaries we’re talking about are the invisible kind. Boundaries are the rules and limits we set for ourselves in relationships and we determine these boundaries based on your own beliefs and experiences. Your boundaries ultimately tell other people how they can treat you.

Setting boundaries is not an exact science and at times it can so tricky. For example, if your boundaries are too strict you risk never letting anyone near you and may miss out on authentic love, friendship and truly being seen. Boundaries which are too loose may make you feel taken advantage of, easily manipulated or letting people into your life that wreak havoc and create stress.

Action Step: Create your boundaries

Grab your journal and reread your entries because this is where you’re going to find the boundaries you want to set.

In my last article <Sam, insert the link to the previous article…but link it to the words “In my last articles” at the beginning of this sentence>, I asked you to think about how you want to “show up” aka how you want to behave around your family. If you wrote that you want to “show up” as someone who is confident in their decisions and choices, then what kind of boundary would you need to set in order to do that?

If your mother always questions your choices and you always get defensive, are you showing up as someone who is confident in their choices? No. Boundaries are about how you choose to react to other people’s behavior.You can’t control what your mother thinks about your decisions but you can control how you react to the questions.

If you continue to get defensive an argument will ensue. You’re going to set a boundary with your mother by saying, “I appreciate your advice but I feel good about my choice.” If she continues to talk about it you can then say, “Again I appreciate your advice but I’ve made my choice. I would like to move on to another topic. How’s work going?”

Boundaries tell other people how you want to be treated. By calming telling your mom you don’t want to talk about it anymore, you’ve set a boundary. The boundary is the amount of time and energy you’re willing to invest in talking about a particular aspect of your life. The mistake we make is we feel like we have to get in there and defend ourselves and make our parents agree with us — being an adult means you can disagree with someone and still have a calm interaction.

Start thinking about family members, topics, issues that you know will trigger you and will make you react in a way that is not in accordance to your values and beliefs. Then for each person or issue, set a boundary that feels good for you.

Don’t over think this because it is much simpler than you think.

If you don’t like your dad after 3 drinks, what boundary are you going to set? Leave the room, leave the house, stop talking about politics, stop drinking yourself, don’t get into long conversations about the past…

All these things I listed are boundaries you can set for yourself.

Make sense? This can be a tough one so feel free to email me at tess@tessbrigham.com if you need some individual help creating your boundaries.

Tess Brigham