Creating boundaries isn’t about shutting people out, being selfish, or setting rigid rules about communication with others. Instead, it is a way to effectively get your needs met. Setting healthy boundaries can lead to higher self-esteem, greater respect from others, and a sense of overall well-being.
Learning how to set clear boundaries may require energy and practice, so set aside some time to reflect on areas of your life that need boundary-setting. Consider your boundaries in the following areas--are they too loose and flexible, or even too rigid?
Physical and Personal Space
Time and Energy
Emotions and Vulnerability
Culture and Beliefs
What are the important relationships in your life? Do unhealthy boundaries exist with a partner, loved ones, friends, co-workers, or even acquaintances? “Unhealthy” could mean you prefer to please people, struggle to say “NO,” find yourself trapped in conversations where you’re being “talked at” or criticized, overshare in social situations, feel uncomfortable in an unwanted embrace or from someone standing too close, etc.
If you can relate to any of these examples, here are a few ways to change your interactions and start getting what you need:
Really get to know yourself. Tap into your sense of what grounds you, your thoughts and emotions, and your inner-wisdom. This sense of self will become a barometer with which to interpret situations where your boundaries get crossed.
Look for warning signs. Create distance from people who invade your space, push your limits, or ask too much of you.
Be OK with changing your mind. Sometimes you may need to change direction or be upfront about your needs, and if you are clear about your request (maybe offer an alternative when cancelling plans with a loved one), proceed without guilt or shame.
Be assertive. Communicate your feelings, thoughts, and needs to others without apologizing. When making a request or saying “No,” use confident body language and tone, connect with the person on the values or emotions behind the ask, and consider ways to negotiate. For tough interactions, plan ahead by playing out the conversation in your mind.
Listen to your gut. Your body will likely give you signs that a boundary is about to be crossed. Your heart rate might increase, you may start sweating, or places like your jaw or stomach might feel tense.
Prioritize self-care time. Whatever you choose to do as a form of relaxation, make sure you engage in it fully. If that means silencing your cell phone, not responding to work emails on the weekends, or letting someone know you need time before answering their question, do so! Having time to “tune out” is vital for your mental and physical well-being.
Brenner, A. (2015). 7 Tips to Create Healthy Boundaries with Others. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-flux/201511/7-tips-create-healthy-boundaries-others
Chesak, J. (2018). The No BS Guide to Protecting Your Emotional Space. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/set-boundaries#affirming-boundaries
Selva, J. (2018). How to Set Healthy Boundaries. Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/great-self-care-setting-healthy-boundaries/