Setting healthy boundaries in your relationship (and your life)
Do you find it hard to say no and a challenge to set boundaries in your relationships? We're not just talking romantic relationships, but relationships at work, with your family and your friends too. Many of us struggle with setting healthy boundaries, so you're not alone! If you're acting out of fear rather than love - that is, if you're afraid to say no or object to something because of the consequences - that's damaging not only your relationships but also your mental health, which can quickly lead to depression, anxiety and a feeling of being out of control.
By learning to set healthy boundaries you are strengthening your self-esteem and self-respect and enabling yourself to form healthier relationships, which ultimately means you'll be healthier and happier - and that's the goal!
It's time to say 'No'
Do you often find yourself doing things to please others, acting out of guilt, bottling up your feelings if someone makes you angry or upset and always putting yourself last? Whilst it's great to be selfless once in a while and think of others, you also need to put yourself first now and again. Saying "Yes" all the time to others when we haven't taken the time to take care of our own needs first usually happens when we act out of fear. In actual fact, saying "Yes" out of guilt or fear could negatively impact your life, by attracting people who drain us with their co-dependency - that's not healthy for your happiness or your self-esteem.
Putting your own needs on the backburner can create simmering feelings of resentment and anger, so you'll end up feeling powerless and out of control. These feelings are the first sign that you've let yourself become a victim of circumstance and that it could be time to start saying no, breaking old patterns and transforming your life for the new year.
Breaking old habits
It can be hard to break a habit you've adopted, but the first step is to identify what's keeping you in an unhealthy relationship or situation, whether you're unhappy at work, fed up with your partner or surrounded by toxic friends. Once you're aware of the problem, you can take steps to make changes in your life, and we recommend starting with these three simple steps that will help you to become more empowered.
#1. What are you afraid of?
Identifying your fears is the key to overcoming them - we're not talking about fear of the dark, spiders or moths here, but real fears that affect your life choices, such as fear of rejection, of being alone or of not being good enough. We know it's all too easy to bottle up fears from past experiences and apply them to the present and future, but this will only lead to anxiety. For example, a fear of being alone could prevent you from expressing how you really feel to your partner, which could lead to anger and resentment building. Expressing your needs is part of being human, and bottling up your feelings can leave you feeling unhappy. Valuing the acceptance of others over your own needs will never make you happy, as you're giving others all the power whilst leaving yourself weak.
#2. Act out of love, not out of fear
Once you've identified your fears, you need to realise that a fear of being alone or rejected isn't based in reality, instead it's something you have created based on your past experiences. For example, a bad breakup after an argument in the past could leave you feeling that everytime you express your feelings in future, your partner will leave you. Feeling like this is an unhealthy cycle which will only lead to unhappiness. Your fears can be controlled and un-learned, and by releasing them, you can make positive changes in your life and adopt a more optimistic outlook. This isn't a quick fix though, it's something you'll need to commit to on a regular basis - changing your fearful thoughts into loving ones.
Whenever you have fearful thoughts, stop what you are doing and counteract the thought with a positive mantra and action. For example, if you're afraid of rejection if you express yourself, try this - "I'm free to express myself and I accept whatever reaction I receive from others." As they say, 'better out than in' - expressing your thoughts and feelings is essential for both your mental and physical well-being and bottling up negative emotions can lead to depression and even illness.
#3. Act on your new beliefs
Saying "No" or being honest if somebody has upset or angered you can be difficult. But acting against your fears means that not only will you feel better, but your relationship will blossom too. Expressing yourself openly helps you to realise that the people who care most about you will listen and understand. Those who can't accept your honest may not be right for you - and failing to notice this could mean you become caught in a cycle of destructive, negative relationships.
Whilst you can never predict or control someone else's response to your comments, you can detach yourself from their opinions and accept whatever they say, which in turn helps you to feel less afraid and more confident. Self-approval and confidence comes from within, not from comments on the selfies you post on Facebook.
Recognising when it's time to make a move
There will always be situations where a job, friendship or relationship isn't right for you, and your gut instinct will tell you. Don't stay out of fear - walking away shows self-respect, so listen to your inner voice (as it's usually right) and trust that there are positive things in store for you around the corner, from new relationships to travel adventures!
By releasing fear and learning to say "No", you're acting from a position where you put yourself first, so you can be who you want to be. As a result, you'll attract friends, partners and situations that support and nourish you as a person, rather than those which erode your confidence, self-worth and happiness. Being healthy and happy starts with feeling happy in your own skin, so put yourself first for a change in 2015.