One of my goals for this new year is to create and set healthy boundaries (in my work, personal life and relationships). After sharing this on my Instagram story, I got a lot of feedback from people stating that they were working on the same thing as well! This inspired me to share a few things I’ve learned about boundaries so far…
First let’s cover the basics: what is a boundary? A boundary is a physical or metaphorical line between ourselves and others. Setting a boundary means requiring better treatment by others and not allowing someone else to run us over (or allow ourselves to become a ‘doormat’).
One thing I’ve learned recently is that setting boundaries can be hard, especially if you relate to being a people-pleaser or someone who tends to avoid confrontation. But it’s important for our mental health and overall wellbeing; boundaries allow us to separate our physical space, feelings, needs and responsibilities from others. In turn this helps to boost self-esteem, reduce burnout, increase productivity and create more fulfillment in our lives.
So… if setting boundaries are so helpful, why are they so damn hard to keep?!
One word: fear.
Studies show that women, in general, tend to struggle more with setting healthy boundaries. Often because there is a fear of rejection or fear of being unloved if a boundary is set, which feels like it could threaten closeness. In order to avoid jeopardizing that closeness, many of us will sacrifice our feelings, needs and wishes. We might be scared that the other person will be hurt or mad. We’re scared that they won’t like us or we’re scared that the relationship will end.
But actually, what's even scarier is being in unhealthy relationships or tolerating behavior that feels hurtful. When we don’t have boundaries, we invite mistreatment. When we set healthy boundaries it’s an act of self-love and self-respect. We’re being real, authentic and courageous by establishing clear and respectful guidelines.
Here are my top 3 tips for getting your boundaries set straight:
Know your limits. Clealy define what your intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual boundaries are with friends, family members, strangers, co-workers, romantic partners, etc. It really helps to write this down that way you have something to look at and refer back to. Next, examine past experiences where you felt discomfort, anger, resentment or frustration with someone. It may have been because your limits had been crossed. If this same situation were to occur again what would you do or say differently? Evaluate your dreams in life - what are your values? What are your goals? Learn to say no to things that don’t support your vision!
Be ASSERTIVE. I know this one can be difficult. Being assertive, if that’s not something you are used to, can be scary. So start small with something manageable and build up your assertive skill to larger tasks. When you decide to answer “no” to something or someone, stick with it! Sometimes people will keep pushing you to change your “no” into a “yes” to meet their needs. In this case, you may need to restate your boundary. For example, “I hear that you really need my help; however, I’m not able to meet your request.” Feel free to explain why not or simply leave it at that. For people pleasers, it can be tempting to put other’s needs before our own. But remember: your needs are just as important as those of the people you are trying to please. Your goals, wants and dreams are totally valid and if someone does something that makes you feel threatened or uncomfortable, it might be time to let that person go.
Practice, practice, practice. When you first start acting assertively, you may be afraid that others will perceive you as mean or rude. But affirming your boundaries means that you value yourself more than the thoughts and opinions of others. Being assertive doesn’t mean that you’re unkind, it means that you’re being fair and honest, while maintaining your peace and self-respect. Remember to practice self-love. Serve yourself first so that you can better serve others.
Setting and protecting our boundaries takes practice. Confronting someone when they’ve crossed a boundary isn’t easy. It can be intimidating and trigger our insecurities. But if we don’t learn to speak up, we can’t expect anything to change. Plus, speaking up strengthens relationships in the long run because it encourages healthy communication and promotes trust.
I hope these tips are helpful for you. Do you have any advice for setting and keeping boundaries? I’d love to hear your thoughts!