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April 2023:

Boundaries. We’re hearing about it more in social media. In mental health and wellness discussions. But for someone like me who comes from a culture in which there is no differentiation where one person ends and the other begins, boundaries are not only unheard of but also somewhat a sign of rebellion.

Interpersonal boundaries is the respect for another persons needs, wants and general personal space.

Sounds simple right? But then why is it so common for us to forget and forego boundaries in relationships?

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I’ve come to realize in my personal and professional life that boundaries aren’t exactly embraced by society.

Whether you’re from a Latino culture like mine or not. Setting boundaries means asserting yourself in a way which declares your needs and wants. It also risks a possible negative reaction from the receiving party. I find it more and more common for people, particularly with people pleasing tendencies to hold back on setting boundaries to avoid potential backlash from others. This could look as subtle as a guilt trip or as aggressive as blatant gaslighting.

It takes a significant amount of unshakable confidence and a good understanding of yourself to be able to identify your preferences to then make a public declaration of them. It is a multilayered process. 

Do you know what you want? What you need? What you like or don’t like?

If you find yourself stumped by these questions, then this is your starting line. When patients come to me in need of relationship help I give a fair warning that the interpersonal relationship is only an end product of the relationship they have with themselves first and foremost. We have to back track to being able to answer these simple questions first. If you don’t know what you want then how can you expect someone else to meet those needs for you?

Step two:

Once these questions are answered if you find yourself unable to assert your needs or preferences, observe it. Ask yourself, why am I holding back? Do I fear what the person would say? Do I not think I deserve to have these basic needs met? Resistance is my favorite thing to investigate with patients. There is ALWAYS a negative judgement or false belief hiding behind it. It might just take a little digging to find it.

Once you’ve gotten past these first two crucial steps then it just takes practice.

The first time you assert yourself after a lifetime of silence is going to be terrifying! Don’t expect it to go otherwise. Set your expectations for the first few dozen times carefully and realistically. Boundaries are not something we are commonly born (or raised) practicing. It is a learned habit. You just have to find value in it as something that will help you to become a happier more fulfilled version of yourself. Only then will your relationship with boundaries shift, become lighter and so much easier to put into practice.

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A healthy relationship constitutes two or more parties being able to coexist despite differences by openly and respectfully communicating what is needed in order for everyone to feel fulfilled. A lack of boundaries only leads to resentment for the person(s) who are pushing a side what they would prefer for that of others. If there’s anything that I’d like for you to leave with after reading this today is that putting the needs of others above yours all the time WILL NOT make you a happy, fulfilled person. I don’t know who came up with that but it is a fallacy. No I am not encouraging you to be selfish either. I’m encouraging balance. I couldn’t believe more in the saying that you can’t fill someone else’s cup if yours is empty. Cliche? Yes. Corny? Sure. But it holds so much truth.

If you find yourself overreaching in relationships. Prioritizing everyone else’s happiness on the false belief that it will magically make you happy, STOP. Prioritize and fill yourself FIRST. When you learn to give to others from your overflow you’ll realize that you can not only maintain your happiness but also give to others as well! Everyone can win in relationships. Just takes an open mind and a willingness to step outside of the box and do something untraditional. What’s there to lose? Try something different and see if in the end you might feel differently than you’ve been accustomed to. Just because we’re used to something doesn’t make it normal. 

Reach out today

Dr. Cristina Dominguez provides compassionate, professional care with no judgment. Elite coaching sessions can help with career advancement, successful relationships, burnout, and more. Reach out today to schedule your free consultation.

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