Ever felt like you don't have a voice in a social or professional setting, or felt overpowered by the behaviour of others (whether a stranger, colleague, friend or family member) and found it challenging to stand up for yourself?
You could be allowing others to invade your personal boundaries - be it by letting them talk to you a certain way or by scooching over too close physically. Here, we sat down with DHA-licensed Clinical Psychologist and trained Cognitive Behavioural Therapist Ira Naeem, who explains the importance of setting boundaries and the relationship between them and self-worth
How would you define boundaries and why is it important to set them?
A boundary is a very fine line - a limit between you and others. You 're telling people if you want them to be in your personal space and what you anticipate once they're there. Setting boundaries (physical, psychological, emotional) are crucial to maintain your individuality and to protect your mental and physical wellbeing.
Why might others, including family members and friends, violate our boundaries?
People closer to us do not violate our boundaries intentionally, rather they do that because of ignorance, lack of critical thinking, or because that’s their go-to strategy to cope up with their own struggles. However, most importantly it is because over the past experiences we have given them the message that it is okay for them to enter our personal space without any limitations.
What is your advice to those who may struggle to be firm and set boundaries?
It is not easy for many of us to set firm boundaries, but it is something we can all learn. The change usually starts from the identification, so identify mindfully what your limitations are and how you’re being impacted if you do not firmly set your boundaries. The next step is to have clear communication in an assertive manner with others and then be consistent with your responses.
Personal boundaries can indicate what we find acceptable and not acceptable from others - some individuals, particularly females, tend to be taught from a young age that always being nice and pleasing others is crucial in life - to the point where they may allow others to cross boundaries in order to make them happy. How can we as a society correct this?
Some new efforts and focus on strengthening women’s movements will help lead the charge for social change on these pressing issues. Most importantly, I think to change societal patterns, everyone must play their role individually. One woman alone can model and inspire others in her surroundings. We must raise our voice, support one another and educate the next generation.
Not being able to set firm limits can stem from deriving feelings of self-worth from people-pleasing. What is your advice to those who derive feelings of self-worth from pleasing others? How can they increase self-worth through other means?
Only one perspective really matters when it comes to your self-worth, and that's your own. First, evaluate your self-talk which is the major indication of low self-worth. Once you identify your negative self-talk, some small changes in lifestyle, regular self-care and counselling can heal you and improve your self-worth.
The healing process from codependent behaviours will help you improve your relationship with yourself, which will also enhance your ability to set boundaries and establish healthy relationships with others.