set boundaries

The failure to set boundaries early on gets a lot of people in trouble later. Sometimes it’s because we think that there is not need; we assume that we understand the same ‘rules’, until it is too late. Other times – and perhaps more often – it is because we are unsure or afraid that we’ll send out signals which will drive the other person away. Whatever the reason, there are situations where, if you don’t set boundaries clearly, you could be heading for trouble.

Many cultures have a version of this proverb, so it probably has more than a shred of value. ‘Fences’ are boundaries, and we all have them.

Keeping your boundaries intact is vital for self-esteem and emotional wellbeing, so don’t let people trample on yours.

I grew up in the country, and I remember the electric fences that could keep cattle in their place. Once they have had a tiny 12-volt zap from the single wire that surrounded their field, these huge beasts could be kept in line by just the thought of it happening again. It’s the same with people. Not the 12-volt bit, but once you have set boundaries clearly and made sure that they are understood, it is less likely that others will stray into your space innapropriately.

So much so that the electric cable can be replaced by a length of harmless string, and they still wouldn’t approach! One more thing, my good friend Frank used to sit and watch cows all day long. He reckoned that they shared information; once one of the herd had experienced something the word spread, and others took the hint.

The ability to set boundaries and keep them intact means valuing yourself and understanding your needs, not shutting people out (unless you choose to).

As Benjamin Franklin said “Love thy neighbour, yet don’t pull down your hedge.”

I’m a psychologist, coach, and therapist. All my work is aimed at enabling people to improve personal aspects of their lives and work.


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