It's a new year and that means a new you! It's time you stop agreeing to with everyone else's opinions and feelings about what your identity looks like and start reclaiming your time and energy.
This has been an upward hill battle for me to set healthy boundaries with all the people I have relationships with in my life (friends, family, and colleagues included) as I emerged into adulthood.
For a long-time I went along with what others told me I should be and did tasks that weren't fulfilling for me. Over time I began to feel fatigued, stressed out, and resentful towards others.
But I now understand how important it is to set healthy boundaries because it is a necessary life skill that can preserve your mental health and well-being. In this article we will dive into what setting healthy boundaries means, examples of what it looks like, the different types of boundaries, and ways you can apply it in your life.
What Is a Healthy Boundary?
When you think of boundary setting rather than picturing a wired fence or "stay out" sign instead try to imagine a lifeguard flag or crosswalks. Boundaries are put in place to keep us safe and protected so we don't get hurt.
Learning to set our own healthy boundaries allows us to set limits on what we will tolerate and will not tolerate. Setting healthy boundaries is a means of exercising personal freedom. It means we are getting to know our identity and increasing self-awareness of where we stand and what we stand for.
Setting healthy boundaries give us an indication of how we know where one person ends and where we begin. Setting healthy boundaries means cutting off toxic people in our lives and understanding when you feel depleted after a conversation that a boundary has been violated.
But before you can begin to set and maintain healthy boundaries you must have a clear understanding of self. You also need to know how to define respect for yourself and what respect looks like for you and others.
The way I would define respect is when others take my feelings, wishes, rights, and traditions into consideration and I can do the same for them. For example, when I get off of work and my boss text me, I respectfully decline to respond until the next business day.
You should be mindful of other peoples boundaries as well. If you don't know what boundaries other people in your life have then simply ask them. Communication is key!
Respect for others can look like going out with a group of friends for example and choosing a restaurant that has vegan and vegetarian options other than just salad even if I myself am not so everyone can enjoy the social activity.
Spend some time alone with yourself to explore what you believe you are deserving of and what values are worth protecting. Many of the boundaries we set for ourselves come down to self-worth and self-love.
Types of Healthy Boundaries You Need
Freedom to have your own beliefs, values and opinions. "I respect your opinion, even though I don't agree, and I'd like you to respect mine."
Proximity, touch, PDA, unwanted comments on your appearance or sexuality. "I don't appreciate comments like that."
Boundaries around inappropriate topics, emotional dumping & dismissing emotions. "I'm not willing to discuss this." Having a safe word when a topic is triggering can help.
Boundaries around possessions, when they can be used, how to treat them. "You can borrow my ___ if you ask me first."
Boundaries around time, lateness, when to contact, favors. "Please text me if you're going to be late."
Benefits of Setting Healthy Boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries allows you to gain a sense of autonomy. The healthy boundaries you set at work may appear different from the ones you set at home.
Healthy boundaries allow you to know your identity, reduce stress, feel empowered and safe in relationships. It is important to take small steps when establishing boundaries and do so early on in your relationships.
When agreeing to certain tasks only partake in activities that interest you rather than committing to tasks that will deplete you. If you have other plans on Saturday simply say you can't make it without a long drawn out explanation.
If you have a project for work that your boss ask you to take over but you already have a lot on your plate offer suggestions such as, "I can not work on this project as I do not have the time but I know Jill in marketing would love the opportunity to take on a project like this!"
If you don't want a classmate to borrow your textbook before a big test then you can tell them "I prefer if you don't use my textbook." If you don't want your friends blowing up your phone with texts then simply let them know that "you'll get back to them" when you can and they don't need to text you nonstop.
It's important to be assertive and not aggressive when setting healthy boundaries. I am still learning to be more assertive in my own personal relationships.
When asserting yourself and setting healthy boundaries it is imperative that you be open and honest with your opinion in a respectful way, be consistent and don't compromise your identity. Body language is important too as you want to make eye contact, have a neutral tone of voice, maintain control over your feelings and try to create solutions.
In the case that none of your conversations are moving in a positive direction and a friend, family member, or co-worker oversteps your boundaries then it may be time to calmly walk away and agree to disagree. Do not feel ashamed or afraid to say no.
If you're still having trouble asking for space, getting privacy, or feeling like your boundaries have been crossed you can reach out to a counselor, therapist, life coach, mentor, or friend.
The goal is to make sure you can freely ask for what you need and advocate for yourself after all no one can do it better than you!
Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. Cloud H, Townsend J. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; 2017.
People Pleasing: Saying No and Setting Boundaries: Applicable Action Steps to Saying “No” With Confidence, Setting Firm Boundaries, and Warding off Boundary Invaders for Life! Hall R, O’Donnell J. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2016.
Enjoyed reading this post?
Have some thoughts on setting healthy boundaries?
Leave a comment below & be sure to subscribe!