What I’ve seen as a professional coach is that much of our personal power (‘claiming our life as our own’) relies on setting clear boundaries – listening to our own values, asking for help, and knowing what we want and don’t want. There’s an art to setting boundaries that do not become barriers ...What I’ve seen as a professional coach is that much of our personal power (‘claiming our life as our own’) relies on setting clear boundaries – listening to our own values, asking for help, and knowing what we want and don’t want. There’s an art to setting boundaries that do not become barriers to love and closeness.

What’s the distinction between a boundary and a barrier? It lies in our intention which then influences how we behave. When we believe we need to defend or protect ourselves by setting a boundary, we are likely acting out of fear which in turn can keep others at a distance.

Possible reasons behind setting up barriers (fear-based actions):
• When we think we’re setting boundaries, we may actually be behaving defensively – not wanting to own a part of ourselves that we judge as not okay.
• When we decide to change our ways and set clear boundaries, we may express ourselves with the power of pent-up emotions collected during those times we felt like doormats. Our impact can be likened to a sledgehammer hitting a mosquito.
• Fighting may be the only way we know to take a stand.
• Believing that we have to fight for what we want or for our rights, and acting accordingly, can be a defensive block to intimacy that works.
• We may be afraid to be close and truly love another because we have a belief we will lose ourselves in a relationship…again. So we inadvertently push people away.

How might we do that?? Even though our words to the person may be carefully chosen in order to not be accusatory, the energy or tone which accompanies them can be a different story. We may sound angry, blameful and intense, and others may react defensively or want to withdraw or retaliate. A barrier to feeling connected occurs. In other words, what we think are boundaries may actually be a chain-linked fence that keeps others out.

What’s another way? When boundaries are set from a place of love and trust, we calmly express what needs to be expressed…for us. There is no blame, anger, or need to control another. “This is what I need” comes from a place of being in touch with ourselves. We go inward and then state what we want to say clearly and simply. We check in with ourselves and do or say what feels right for us without a need to defend or justify what we say or do. Nor do we have the need to control someone else’s reaction.

The foundational beliefs that someone has who sets clear boundaries are: I am worthy. I respect myself. It’s okay for me to address what I need. I know I have a choice about what I do, say, or think. I follow what feels right inside of me. Instead of a chain-linked fence, this is like having an invisible fence collar; a boundary that is simply respected by ourselves and others.

For example, a woman was challenged by her partner about her environmental consciousness. Instead of reacting defensively like, “I’m doing the best that I can. This is me. I get to behave in a way that feels right for me”, she can choose to hear what her partner says as a value of his and, if she’s willing, reflect on her own value regarding environmentalism. Then she can follow through on what feels right for her.

Another woman who was caring for her elderly mother reached the point of feeling burnt out. She could angrily let her two siblings know that they weren’t there for her and that she would no longer give more than one third of her share….and create a barrier. Other options are that she either ask for help or share that she needs to step back right now, trusting that her siblings will do what feels right for them in addressing their mother’s needs.

A parent could scream and demand that her children participate in the household chores from a critical place which could create a barrier. A boundary that honors her needs would be setting up a chart with clear consequences for following or not following through with the chores so each child could choose how they will behave.

How do we overcome that fear of closeness and losing ourselves? How do we stay self- connected so that we move toward what we truly want – harmony and intimacy - instead of pushing others away?

It’s a process. Day by day, it means checking in with our core. When we are truly at home with whom we are and connected to our core, we trust ourselves to be truly intimate with another. We know that we can’t lose ourselves because we listen to ourselves. We understand that we don’t have to fight to get what we want or work hard to control someone else. We get that it’s an inside job and that it’s all about us. We have choice. The respect that we give ourselves is reflected back to us.

You might not see the connection between being afraid to love and setting healthy boundaries. What I’ve seen is that when we have inner confidence, we communicate with others, particularly our intimate partner, from a foundation of feeling worthy, self-connected and whole. We behave lovingly to others because we love ourselves. The possibility of creating intimacy in our relationships then increases many fold.

© Copyright 2007 Jeannie Campanelli. All Rights Reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Jeannie Campanelli, Ed.D., CPCC , is a Certified Coach, author, blogger, and champion of true inner confidence. A firm believer that spirit, spunk, and rock-steady certainty pave the way to freedom. Jeannie's been featured on national magazines like Homemaker's, Esteem Magazine, and as a contributing author of "101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life" along with such luminaries as Byron Katie, Mark Victor Hansen, and Ken Blanchard. With her Women's Wisdom Circles, programs, and one-on-one coaching, Jeannie helps women & men across the globe build confidence, conquer doubt, and create an authentic life they love. Want to know more? Step on over to www.innerconfidencecoaching.com to check out Jeannie's blog, and get the information about Jeannie's methods, offerings!