Every mother knows that one of the most exhausting aspect of motherhood is being the creator of safety but setting boundaries. That means saying no a lot and often in a thousands of ways, albeit some are more constructive and gentle than others.
However, not only do we need to be able to set boundaries with the big and little humans in our lives, we need to also set boundaries internally, within ourselves.
Boundaries are about self-discipline and self-respect
It is difficult to talk about self-care without talking about setting boundaries with other people. In order to establish healthy boundaries we need to be able to say yes when we want to say yes and say no when we want to say no.
Sometimes before we can choose to say yes or no we have to first find out what it is that we really want. We may have not grown up in a family where our needs and wants mattered and, hence, we may not know what we need and want as adults.
As important as establishing healthy boundaries between ourselves and others, we also need to realize that we have to be able to create boundaries within ourselves. There are times when we need to say yes to ourselves and there are times when we need to say no to ourselves.
These internal boundaries can be called self-discipline or self-respect. They tend to be needs and wants that protect our long-term health and well-being. We need to be able to resist temptation, do something even when we don’t really want to, and to move away from the desire for immediate gratification.
Being able to create boundaries with yourself can lead to, for example good time management, choosing how you respond instead of reacting blindly, honoring your values and principles even when it is difficult, working towards achieving your goals, and keeping yourself safe.
Discovering your boundaries
If you realize that you don’t know what your deepest needs and wants are try the following exercise. Complete the sentence stem ‘I want…’ as many times as you can until you can’t think of anything else. Don’t censor yourself. Allow yourself to acknowledge everything you may want. Then do the same with ‘I need…’ If this exercise is difficult, you may need to repeat it until you are more comfortable with having needs and wants.
Next, complete the sentence stem ‘If I say yes to myself when I want to say yes and no to myself when I want to say no… ‘ What do you notice?
Matleena Vanhanen is a licensed Counselling Psychologist with over 20 years of experience working in Europe and the Middle East. She has a practice of couples and individual therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.