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How to know your boundaries so you can respect them.

We talk everywhere about respecting or imposing our limits. It’s true that setting and maintaining boundaries is a skill. But before establishing healthy boundaries with others, you first need to know where to start and therefore know what you need. Learning to know yourself better to define your own limits is the starting point without which you will never be able to establish limits with others.

To help you know your limits, here are a number of things you can do.
Respecting boundaries

I previously wrote an article about how to set healthy boundaries in your relationships by communicating, kindly but firmly, your needs to the people around you. But what if you don't know what you need? Everything inside you screams uneasiness, you don't feel well, but you have no definite idea why, and you know even less where to start to find a solution. So what to do?

I've been there, too. Under the influence of a mother who only had the title, my childhood did not allow me to have limits, quite simply. I tried to please in any way I could and get into everyone’s good graces while completely ignoring my own needs. For the majority of my adult years, I was exhausted emotionally, mentally, and financially. I have repeated this pattern of behavior dozens and dozens of times in all areas, personal, professional and even in friendships. Then one day, I collapsed. My body gave up, and with it, my mental health. No distractions, vacation periods or daily walks could help me. I was at the end of my rope and my body suddenly sounded the alarm. I had no choice but to learn my limits, and then make the necessary changes. It lasted longer than necessary because I didn't seek outside help that could have made me move forward faster. Today, I know, if I had thought to ask for help during this time, I think it would have been really worth it, because sharing some of my “things" would have helped me. So I struggled for many months before understanding what I had to do and how.

Since then, after wandering on paths that led to nothing, I worked on myself, and then I learned the essential steps to know my own limits. I’m going to share with you these simple tips that will help you learn your boundaries so you can respect them.

1. Spend time alone

Nothing can bring you more clarity than alone time. Give yourself time, even if it's just a few dozen minutes a day, and do what you want. Let your instincts speak. Don’t make this special time a duty or an obligation. Don't impose anything on yourself! Listen to music, read, exercise, cook, meditate, journal, dance, complete a puzzle, or take up a craft of some kind. Whether wise or foolish, do what you want. Alone.

The advantage? You will learn your limits without any distractions or outside influences. And no one to impose their choices and preferences on you. It is only by remaining alone that you will be able to know what gives you a state of well-being. Then the conclusion will come by itself: why should this change when other people are there?

2. Determine your fears

When you find yourself in the spiral of not respecting your boundaries again, freeze the frame, and dig deeper into the subject. Think about why you continue to violate your own needs, and cross your boundaries, or why do you still let another person cross them again. The motives for these actions are most likely linked to conscious or unconscious fear.

The advantage? When you are able to identify the underlying fear, you can release it. This is deep work that I advise you to do with the help of a qualified person. Sometimes (actually, often), old demons resurface. But after this work, you will feel more comfortable saying “no” to yourself before launching into a situation that is not yours. You will think twice about going to someone's rescue whether you have been asked to do so or not. This way you let people exercise their free will, whether you agree with their decisions or not. You don’t have to intervene in other people’s problems every time. Then, ultimately, it will be easier for you to make the choice between helping someone or allowing them to make their own mistakes, because they need to learn through their own means to grow.

3. If you have the slightest doubt, stop everything!

If something doesn't suit you or you have a bad feeling, don't continue. Even if you don't know where this feeling comes from. It's your intuition that guides you, so listen to it. This can apply as much to your interactions with others as to any situation in general. Just give yourself some time before making a decision so you can master a clear plan of action.

The advantage? By giving yourself time, you may gain crucial information or additional clarification on the choices to make. You will then feel less anxious and more confident in your decision, because you haven't rushed into something that didn't feel right to begin with.

4. Confide in someone if you feel the need

Take courage and talk to a professional coach or therapist if you need to. If your first interaction disappoints you, if you don’t “feel” your interlocutor, or they don’t understand you, find another one.

The advantage? Being able to talk to someone who doesn't know you, or your loved ones, offers great freedom and relief. You can confide without filter and without fear of negative reaction or judgment. An outsider will not advise you based on their own biases within these interpersonal relationships (like a friend or family member would). In addition, you will be pushed to think differently, to know yourself better, and to consider new things.

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5. Finally, the most important lesson

Everyone is different and the whole growth process is very personal. What is beneficial for me is not necessarily good for you, and vice versa. But I encourage you, with conviction and enthusiasm, to do this work. Go explore and find the answers for yourself. I can say, without a shadow of doubt, that you will be happier and more fulfilled. You'll experience deeper self-acceptance, and enjoy a new sense of freedom when you finally know your boundaries!

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