How to maintain dignity – advice from a psychologist

Defending personal boundaries is important for psychological health, a comfortable sense of self, and maintaining adequate self-esteem. But this can be difficult, especially for women. I will tell you how to learn how to do it correctly.

Where are your boundaries?

Alexander Shakhov
Psychologist and author of the article – Alexander Shakhov

Before you start to defend personal boundaries, you need to understand: do they always go along the line of needs. And we experience needs at four levels.

Physical layer

This includes, for example, the need to sleep. This is not a whim – it is a necessity for a person to be alive and well. On average, an adult needs 8 hours of sleep. And not from four in the morning until noon, but from 22:00 to 06:00, since this is the time for healthy sleep, which our psyche needs. 50% of emotional problems, irritability, fatigue, depression can be removed if you just sleep every day from 22:00 to 06:00.

Other physical needs are to eat quality food, feel safe (including having a roof over your head and enough money), and have regular sex. But you need to understand that wanting to experience the pleasure of sex up to 20 times a day is still a whim. And to want to make love and feel pleasure at the same time every 2-3 days is a normal need for a young woman. And if she is not satisfied, physical and emotional problems will begin.

Emotional level

emotional level

On an emotional level, a person feels the need to be loved, to freely express emotions (laugh when happy, cry when sad, etc.). Many people forbid themselves to cry because it is embarrassing, or it is a demonstration of weakness, or it annoys their partner. But not expressing your emotions is the same as not sleeping. This leads to physical and psychological problems.

About 70% of clients who come to me for psychological help suffer from alexithymia. This is a mental disorder when a person is not able to express his emotional state in words. People who have no contact with their emotions accumulate them in the subconscious. So, one of the widespread ways to suppress emotions is overeating. For example, something bothers you, you cannot figure it out, and you eat something sweet. The body’s glucose levels rise, endorphins are produced, and anxiety subsides. But as soon as the sugar level returns to normal, the anxiety returns, and it has to be seized again.

Therefore, it is very important to understand that it is a need to express your emotions. Moreover, both the person himself and his relatives should understand this. Men often ignore the emotional needs of their women, get irritated because of their tears, do not comfort when their loved one is in anxiety. Women, in principle, have a higher emotional background and cortisol levels, so they often feel stressed and need to feel protected, to be understood and accepted.

Intellectual level

First of all, this includes the need for new information. Because of her, we love flipping through feeds on social networks, reading news, watching video bloggers. Our brain needs a regular supply of new information. That is why criminals placed in solitary confinement go crazy.

Spiritual level


The needs of this level are closely related to moral values. For example, if a woman stands for honesty and sincerity, and her husband is not clean before the law, she will have very serious emotional problems. And even the big money that her husband earns will not make her feel happy and calm. Anxiety will constantly tear from within.

Protect all borders

You have the right to defend borders associated with all of your needs. If someone does not let you sleep 8 hours a day, you have to tell him: “You know, 8 hours of sleep is my need,” and defend it.

If a man does not say sweet words to you, forgets about your birthday, does not give gifts and flowers, and corresponds with other women on social networks, he ignores your need to feel loved. And you have the right to set a boundary and demand that he correct his behavior. This is not nonsense or whim – this is just as important as 8 hours of sleep.

Wrong ways of setting borders

There are two very common but completely ineffective techniques for setting personal boundaries:

Parental way

This is an ultimatum: “Okay, that’s enough, I’m tired of this! You do it either like this or like this. ” He is preceded by timid, hesitant attempts to speak about his needs, which are immediately replaced by war. The man does not have time to understand what is happening, but he is already being attacked. This method of setting boundaries does not imply the presence of feedback, the opportunity to discuss, agree. In response to him, the man either openly enters the war, or prefers to hide in order to attack on the sly. In any case, this results in a large-scale conflict.


Children’s way

With him, a woman suffers for a long time, accumulates resentment and irritation, repeats in the background: “Well, don’t, please, well, I asked you, why are you doing this.” It all comes down to just these words, no sanctions follow them, and the man simply does not hear the demands. When there is too much resentment, it turns into tears, hysteria, self-pity. A man in response may get angry, or regret, or promise to improve. But he does not understand how to behave correctly, because there is no framework for new behavior, therefore, in reality, nothing changes.

The childish way of setting boundaries is characteristic of insecure people, while they often play in the Karpman triangle: “Victim – Persecutor – Rescuer.”

For example, the wives of alcoholics, gambling addicts, cheaters. Everything goes in a circle: first the man cheats, then he repents, he is forgiven, then he sees that his wife has calmed down, cheats again, repents again, he is forgiven again, and so on.

Protecting personal boundaries like an adult

To effectively protect your personal boundaries and not lose the respect of a man (and any other person), you need to comply with four prerequisites:

  1. You should be calm.
  2. You must show respect.
  3. You must be consistent.
  4. You should be grateful.

By following these principles, you will always win, even if you agree to concessions somewhere.

Technique “I am water”

technique - I am water

The most difficult situation is with calmness. To solve this problem, you can use the “I am water” technique. The more often you use it, the faster and easier it will be to enter the desired state later.

  1. Imagine a forest mountain lake. It is calm and serene… You stand on the shore and enter the water. It can be warm and tender, cool. Choose for yourself. This water is you, your state of calmness, you will never drown in it or drown in it.
  2. You dissolve, become a serene, calm and deep lake… Its smooth surface is smooth. And if a stone falls into the lake, small circles go from it and quickly dissipate. The stone falls regularly to the bottom and dissolves, and you remain calm and serene. You have entered the state of “I am water” or “I am calm.”
  3. Take a deep breath with your mouth, exhale, and imagine that you are not just a lake – you are the sea.… Big, warm, affectionate. Its waves roll onto the shore, roll back, roll over again. But deep underwater, you are still calm, stable, and motionless. The ebb and flow doesn’t change that. Continue to maintain the state of the sea, the state of the water.

Think of a situation where you needed to defend your boundaries, and imagine it from a new state. You can offer your reasons, the man may not hear them, but these are like stones leaving circles on the water – you are not fighting with them. You simply state your request, your needs.

Feel that your words, your desire to defend your boundaries does not affect you. Emotionally, inside you are still a deep blue sea. Your waves roll in, “Please do this,” and roll back. They roll over again: “Please do this,” and roll back. And even if your requests are not heard at first, it does not humiliate you, because you remain the sea, calm and serene at depth. The water is soft, but it wears away even the hardest granite.

This technique allows you to show perseverance and maintain femininity at the same time. They rolled over, expressed their arguments, requests, set their boundaries – and rolled back. If you have this feeling in your head when restoring boundaries in a real situation, you will be able to defend your position without bias in a parental ultimatum or childish nagging. Moreover, you will do it in such a way that the man really understands what is required of him and will be able to satisfy your needs. And you will save yourself from deep feelings and suffering.

Alexander Shakhov
Psychologist and author of the article – Alexander Shakhov

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