Setting healthy clear boundaries is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself and your relationships. Personal boundaries communicate what you will and will not tolerate from others, and encourage respect, support and understanding within your relationships. By setting boundaries, you are also respecting yourself and building your own self-esteem because you are taking responsibility for how you feel and showing others that you deserve to be treated well.
Up until my early twenties, I did not know how to set healthy boundaries and I admired those who could confidently say “no” and honor their limits. I was too focused on being appropriate and likable. I was willing to bend over backwards for anyone I cared about, run to their needs, drop whatever I was doing and spread myself thin so that I could be of service to them, all the while feeling drained, disappointed and at times met with disrespect.
Some of the wonderful women I work with also have the same experience of putting their families, friends, loved ones, bosses and co-workers before themselves. They are smart, brilliant and very loving women who are happy to tend to other’s needs, yet often are left confused about why other’s don’t treat them with the same amount of attention or care. The main factor has to do with the fact that they haven’t showed others how to treat them, because they haven’t set clear, healthy boundaries.
Many people fail to set boundaries or say “no” to requests, favors, or anything that would require too much of their energy because:
- They fear they’ll jeopardize the relationship
- They put the other person’s needs above their own
- They disregard how they’re feeling and don’t value their own time
- They feel guilty
- They never learned how to set boundaries in the first place
They don’t want to say no to a boss, lover, friend, child or parents because they put that person before themselves, and have essentially given their personal power away to that person. They have given up the power of choice due to external factors and the desire to please. Generally children of overbearing, critical or abusive parents tend to feel that they do not have a right to say no and have not learned how to set physical, emotion, or mental boundaries.
Setting boundaries is not a matter of being “selfish” or self-absorbed. It is freeing and an act of self-love, because you prioritize your precious time and energy. You can still be the incredibly loving and generous person that you are, while still being able to say “no” to things that either do not feel right to your personal values, or cannot be scheduled into your schedule.
How to Set Healthy Boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries is something that we can learn and implement into our daily lives in order to have more respect, self-esteem and healthy relationships with yourself and others. Once I learned how to set boundaries, I gained so much more respect and confidence for myself, as well as developing only healthy relationships. Here are some ways that you too can strengthen your personal boundaries:
1. Check in with yourself
The first step is to take a moment to become aware of how you feel when someone asks something of you or treats you in a disrespectful way. What thoughts come up for you? Do you feel empowered or powerless? Emotions of guilt, anger, resentment and victimization are the most common indicators of weak or non-existent boundaries. Are you drained, disappointed, and unfulfilled? All of these emotions signal that you may have been focusing more on the other person than on how you are feeling. Put your attention on how you feel and why. Check in to see what comes up for you.
2. Identify what needs to be changed.
After you have checked in with yourself, write down the ways people in your life trigger feelings of disappointed, unhappiness, resentment, etc. Identify the issues and what may be causing them. Next, think of how you want the situation to change, or what you want the other person to stop doing to and around you.
3. Prioritize your time, energy and happiness
Boundaries are meant to protect your emotional and physical wellbeing. If you are worn out from taking care of your family, kids, work, etc. your mental and emotional wellbeing in on low and this over-functioning not only harms your healthy, but it also creates an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship.
Set an intention that you deserve time off, to be happy, respected and reenergized. Rather than taking on another commitment, prioritize what is important for you, how you want to feel and be treated, then put that first. If you cannot take care of yourself, how can you take care of everything else that needs your attention? You deserve to feel good.
4. Learn to say “NO”
This can be one of the hardest things to do for most people-pleasers. You want to feel good that others go to you for help and you accommodate to make them happy. You put your needs on the back burner and over-commit, typically at the expense of your time and energy.
If you are asked for a favor and notice you are feeling drained, disappointed, resentment or overwhelmed, confidently tell the person that you are currently unable to meet their request, but would be happy to see what you can do when your schedule is less busy. If someone treats you poorly, calmly express how their behavior affects you and that the behavior is not something you wish to tolerate in your life.
5. Separate yourself if you need to
It is important to protect your energy and have your boundaries respected. If a situation or behavior feels toxic to you or your boundaries haven’t been respected, consider whether allowing the situation to continue or keeping the person in your life serves your highest good. You may either need to adjust your boundaries, re-establish them or separate yourself entirely. Surround yourself with people who only add positivity to your life and honor what feels right to you.
Once you set and maintain personal boundaries, people will respect you more, you’ll have confidence within yourself and your relationships will be healthy!