Setting boundaries for yourself and honoring the boundaries of others isn’t a textbook science, but you can learn ways to take charge of your life. Whether you want to set clearer rules with your family or assert your space when it comes to strangers, here’s how to get started.
Benefits of Setting Boundaries
Conserving Emotional Energy
You can set boundaries for our
emotions and thoughts
stuff or possessions
time and energy
culture, religion, and ethics
Our personal boundaries aren’t as obvious as a fence or a giant “no trespassing” sign, unfortunately. They’re more like invisible bubbles.
Even though personal boundaries can be challenging to navigate, setting and communicating them is essential for our health, well-being, and even our safety.
Boundaries give a sense of agency over one’s physical space, body, and feelings, We all have limits, and boundaries communicate that line.
Steps to Setting Boundaries
Know that you don't have to prove anything. Often we have a problem with setting boundaries because we're afraid of hurting others.
Understand your needs.
Speak positive affirmations.
The word “boundary” can be a bit misleading. It conveys the idea of keeping yourself separate. But boundaries are actually connecting points since they provide healthy rules for navigating relationships, intimate or professional.
1. Boundaries improve our relationships and self-esteem
Boundaries protect relationships from becoming unsafe. In that way, they actually bring us closer together than farther apart, and are therefore necessary in any relationship. Having boundaries allows you to make yourself a priority, whether that’s in self-care, career aspirations, or within relationships.
2. Boundaries can be flexible
Don’t draw your boundaries in permanent ink. It’s good to think about them occasionally and reassess. When boundaries are too rigid or inflexible, problems can occur, You don’t want to isolate yourself, avoid closeness altogether, or give up all your time to others. Creating boundaries that are too bendy is often common for women.
3. Boundaries allow us to conserve our emotional energy
Your self-esteem and identity can be impacted, and you build resentment toward others because of an inability to advocate for yourself. You don’t need to have the same boundaries or comfort level for everyone. Boundaries that let us have a different radius depending on the situation or person can also help you maintain enough energy to care for yourself.
Understand that just because you may be happy to lend a hand to your best friend on moving day doesn’t mean you also have to do the heavy emotional lifting when someone texts about their latest drama.
4. Boundaries give us space to grow and be vulnerable
We all deal with complex feelings when life happens. By setting boundaries and then breaking them, when the time is right, you’re showing your vulnerability.
This could be as simple as talking openly to friends and family. When we display our vulnerability to someone, we let them know that they’re welcome to open up to us sometime when they need to.
But vulnerability and oversharing are different. Shared vulnerability brings people closer together over time. Oversharing, on the other hand, can use drama to manipulate, hold another person emotionally hostage, or force the relationship in one direction.
We can’t just search on Etsy for a set of hand-knit boundaries to make our own. Boundaries are a deeply personal choice and vary from one person to the next, and we shape them throughout our lives.
Our boundaries are shaped by
our heritage or culture
the region we live in or come from
whether we’re introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in between
our life experiences
our family dynamics
We have all come from unique families of origin, We each make different meaning of situations. And we may change our own boundaries over the years as we mature and our perspective shifts. One standard cannot hold for all. Rather, each person needs to find that level of comfort within themselves. You can investigate and define your boundaries with self-reflection.
1. What are your rights?
It is important in setting boundaries to identify your basic human rights.
I have a right to say no without feeling guilty.
I have a right to be treated with respect.
I have a right to make my needs as important as others.
I have a right to be accepting of my mistakes and failures.
I have a right not to meet others’ unreasonable expectations of me.
Once you identify your rights and choose to believe in them, you’ll find honoring them easier. When you honor them, you’ll stop spending energy pacifying or pleasing others who dishonor them.
2. What does your gut tell you?
Your instincts can help you determine when someone is violating your boundaries or when you need to set one up.
Check in with your body (heart rate, sweating, tightness in chest, stomach, throat) to tell you what you can handle and where the boundary should be drawn,
Maybe you clench your fists when your roommate borrows your new coat, for example. Or you tighten your jaw when your relatives ask about your dating life.
3. What are your values?
Your boundaries also relate to your moral philosophy, I recommends identifying 10 important values. Then narrow that list to five, or even three.
Reflect on how often those three are challenged, tread upon, or poked in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. This lets you know if you have strong and healthy boundaries or not.
How to Create Boundaries:
Have you ever felt out of place or exhausted because of someone else? Someone might’ve just crossed your boundary without knowing what it was. Here’s how to draw your lines with confidence.
1. Be assertive
If someone sets boundaries with assertiveness, it feels firm but kind to others. If they push in to aggressive, it feels harsh and punishing to others. Assertive language is clear and nonnegotiable, without blaming or threatening the recipient. You can be assertive by using “I statements.”
HOW TO USE I STATEMENTS
I feel ____ when _____ because ____________________________. What I need is ______________________________________________.
I statements show confidence and good boundary setting by expressing thoughts, feelings, and opinions without worrying what others are thinking.
2. Learn to say No
Even though it can be daunting to say, “No” is a complete sentence.
We might be hesitant to say no without offering more info, but it’s not necessary, Sometimes assertiveness isn’t needed for boundary setting as much as personal tolerance for being uncomfortable.
You can say no without an explanation and without providing any emotional labor to the person you’re saying it to.
If someone asks for your number or to dance, you can absolutely just say no. If a co-worker asks you to cover their shift, you can also say no, without offering any excuse.
3. Safeguard your spaces
You can also set boundaries for your stuff, physical and emotional spaces, and your time and energy without necessarily announcing it, too.
How to recognize and honor other people’s boundaries
Having a traffic light to guide us in assessing boundaries would be helpful; however, we can tap into other ways of being mindful and not overstepping. It all comes down to communication and being aware of other people’s space.
Here are three beginner rules to follow.
1. Watch for cues
Noting social cues is a great way to determine another’s boundaries. When talking with someone and they step back when you step forward, you’re being given information about their comfort level with closeness. Possible hints someone might want more space:
avoiding eye contact
turning away or sideways
limited conversation response
excessive nodding or “uh-huh”-ing
voice suddenly becomes higher-pitched
nervous gestures like laughing, talking fast, or talking with hands
folding arms or stiffening posture
2. Be inclusive of neurodiversity behaviors
Cues will be a little different for everyone. Also keep in mind that some people may use certain gestures all the time, may not provide cues, may have different cues, or may not pick up on the subtleties of your cues.
“Neurodivergent” is a newer term used to describe people who live with autism, are on the spectrum, or who have other developmental disabilities. Their social cues may be different from the norm, such as poor eye contact or difficulty starting a conversation.
Never underestimate the power of asking. You can inquire if a hug is OK or if you can ask a personal question.
Boundaries are here to help us
We can really think of setting boundaries as fortifying our relationships with others rather than building walls to keep people out. But boundaries do another important thing for us.
They can clue us in to behavior that might be harmful. Think about the front door to your home or apartment. If someone breaks it down, you know there’s a problem.
Oftentimes, we push our instincts aside because we are convinced they are unreasonable, or we have been taught not to trust them, But if something feels consistently uncomfortable or unsafe, it is a red flag that abuse may be a problem.
If someone is repeatedly pushing or violating your boundaries, listen to your gut.
And to avoid being the one doing the boundary busting, Ask people in your life to be honest with you about if you are pushing any boundaries. This may feel scary, but it will most likely be met with appreciation and will mark you as a safe person to set boundaries with.
Tammy Drummond-Rowland, RN HN
Holistic Nurse, Life Coach
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