Saturday, 2 Jul 2022

4 signs you need stronger emotional boundaries – and how to create them

Written by Amy Beecham

Tired of feeling overlooked, underappreciated or overworked? These are the four signs you need to take note of.

We’d all like to think that we’re pretty good at standing our ground. We say what’s on our mind, we don’t let people walk over us and while we consider the feelings of others, we ultimately protect our own time, energy and emotions first.

But the truth is, it can be really hard to stand up for ourselves sometimes, whether we bite our tongues at work, go along with someone else’s plans or stay in a situation we know isn’t good for us for an easier life.

While people-pleasing behaviours may seem the best option in the moment, but they ultimately lead to negative thoughts that begin impacting the other aspects of our lives.

And when they do, there are four key warning signs that indicate that you need to introduce boundaries in your life.

Writing for Psychology Today, coach and professor of human behaviour Melody Wilding explains that using a simple internal assessment to take stock of your emotions and begin to create clearer margins around your time and energy.

First, identify any tension in your personal or professional life.

“Tension presents a sense of pressure or strain that leads to persistent nervousness, dread, or distraction,” Wilding explains.

When you feel personally responsible for a situation, such as a piece of work being completed or a friend supported, it can be either a positive reinforcement of your value.

However, according to Wilding, unresolved tension can mean that you never allow yourself to be still, rest, or recharge because you feel that you must always be moving to meet the next benchmark.

“The next time you start to feel this feeling arise, ask yourself: What situations trigger a sense of dread? What wisdom is my body trying to show me about where I’m overloading myself?” she advises.

Next, pay attention to any feelings of resentment.

“Out of all four feelings, this one is the most significant sign that you need to set better boundaries,” Wilding stresses.

“Resentment is unvoiced anger. It’s a signal that an important rule, standard, or expectation in your life has been violated by somebody else, or you’ve gone unappreciated or underrecognized.It often looks like long-term, persistent bitterness, indignation, or jealousy you feel every time you think about a situation or interaction.”

By helping to clarify and express your expectations with others, Wilding says you’re able to focus on what you yourself can work on letting go of. After all, harbouring excess negative emotions has never done anyone any good.

Setting boundaries at work can be difficult, but is essential

If you often find yourself frustrated with the way you’re being treated, this could also be another indication of weak emotional boundaries.

“Frustration can lead you to give up and resign yourself to less than what you really want,” says Wilding.

“When you start feeling frustrated, consider: What can I control? How can I be more flexible in my approach? What small thought or behavior can I change today that will start to make a difference?”

Whether it’s taking the pressure off yourself within social situations or expressing your irritations to a partner, it should help you to rebuild healthy partitions that ultimately make you happier.

Finally, Wilding suggests that any lingering discomfort or low-grade sense of uneasiness, impatience, guilt, or even embarrassment is a sign that your boundaries need work.

“When you feel uncomfortable, this is a signal telling you that you need to clarify what you want, then take action in that direction,” she explains.

“Mild, intermittent discomfort can be a sign that you’re pushing and challenging yourself to try new things and experiment or can serve as a catalyst to change circumstances you’re unhappy with. But too much of this discomfort can stifle growth. Pushing yourself beyond your limits is a surefire path to exhaustion.”

To avoid burning out and allow yourself to recognise and effectively deal with your discomfort, Wilding advises identifying which situations zap your energy or leave you feeling unsettled and doing what you can to remove yourself or mitigate their effects.

Making space for yourself and protecting your own energy is just as important as being there for others

However, Wilding expresses that not every situation where these four feelings arise deserve a boundary. “Look for patterns and recurring themes,” she urges. “That will point you toward opportunities to create new rules and make changes so you can protect your mental and emotional energy, especially in the areas where it’s hardest to set limits.”

Images: Getty

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