Do you dread disappointing others? Is it easier for you to say “yes” even though you’d rather say “no”? Do you feel unappreciated and taken advantage of in personal or professional relationships? These feelings indicate a need for better boundaries.
Boundaries are part of our daily life, and they are limits created for our protection. Social distancing and wearing masks are designed to protect our health. Fences, security cameras, and locks protect our possessions, and Spam filters protect our time. Yet most of us fall short of protecting our psychological well-being.
Boundaries form the foundation for healthy relationships, both with ourselves and others. When our boundaries are respected, we feel safe and trustful. Consequently, we can enjoy the relationship and relax.
What are healthy boundaries?
- Determined by You.
- Courteously Conveyed.
It’s Time to Set Boundaries When…
Boundary issues arise in many situations and parts of our lives; however, it’s not unusual for them to fly under our radar. Common signs that your boundaries need attention include:
- Feeling taken advantage of emotionally, financially, or physically.
- Saying “yes” to please others (your boss, friend, boyfriend) when you’d rather say “no.”
- Feeling disrespected by others.
- Accepting less than you deserve.
- Wanting to be liked and not risk confrontation.
- Feeling that there’s something wrong with you if you say “no.”
Why It’s Hard to Set Boundaries
For some people, even thinking about setting boundaries triggers anxiety. Learning to say “no” to people comes with practice. You may feel anxious and unsettled as you set boundaries until it becomes a natural part of your life. Above all, remember that you deserve love, respect, and kindness, both personally and professionally.
Guidelines for Setting Boundaries
1- Use your values as a guide.
It’s helpful to clarify your values in life and relationships. It’s up to you to take care of yourself, which means you commit to living aligned with your values. For example, if you value your time for spiritual expression, your boundary could be not to take on a work assignment when it impedes your practice.
2- Understand that different relationships require different boundaries
Boundaries can vary depending on the situation. We routinely share personal information with our spouses or close friend; however, we wouldn’t share the same information with our co-workers. When you’re dating, healthy boundaries mean that you won’t share all your personal information at once and instead wait until you feel safe with the other person.
At work, you’ll need to establish respectful relationships with your co-workers and your supervisor. You’ll protect yourself from burnout by saying “no” to work on the weekends or evenings. If your work environment demands that you ignore your boundaries, it may be time to move on.
When it comes to family members, the nature of healthy boundaries depends on the overall family dynamics. When family members are respectful and considerate, boundaries can be flexible. If family members tend to be overbearing, you’ll need to set rigid boundaries. You might need to block your parent’s phone number or make sure your conversations are short until you feel emotionally prepared to talk to them.
3- Be Patient
Don’t be surprised if your issues with someone don’t disappear after addressing them once. Hold firm and respectfully reiterate your boundary. They may apologize and begin to respect your boundary or ignore it. If their personality is such that they cannot change, you’ll have to decide if the issue is a deal-breaker. If it is, you may have to walk away from the relationship.
4- Hold your ground
As you move forward, you’ll find that some people will support your healthy new boundaries, and others may refuse to accept and honor the ‘new you.’ It’s typical for people accustomed to you being a doormat to get irritated or upset when you change your behavior. Sometimes the wisest move is to distance yourself from those who choose not to respect your boundaries.
What To Say to Set a Boundary
We often feel that we owe others a dissertation-level response to why we cannot do something, go somewhere, etc. A clear boundary is an explanation in and of itself.
Refusing an invitation
- No, and thank you for the offer.
- Your invitation means a lot to me, but I’m going to have to pass on it.
Refusing a Request
- No, I’m not able to do that.
- I support your (hobby, interest, goal) however, it’s not something I want to participate in. (I’d rather _____).
- I can’t work over the weekend. I already have plans (which means you have plans not to work!) I look forward to picking it up fresh on Monday.
Refusing to accept specific behavior
- When you do _______, I am going to _______.
- If you continue to _______, I will ________.
What Not To Say To Set a Boundary
Unhealthy boundary-setting involves making up stories, over-apologizing, manipulating, threatening actions that you won’t follow through on, managing someone else’s feelings, and wanting validation about your decision.
- I feel like you don’t support my decision; let me explain why I think this way…
- The dog ate my homework, and I have to submit it today so I can’t because I have to spend time to re-do it, and I also have a migraine.
- I’m so sorry. I’m really sorry.
- If you keep _______, I’m going to divorce you and never let you see the kids again.
- If you ______, I’ll never speak to you again.
- I’m sorry you feel disappointed; what can I do to make it up to you?
- Can’t you see why I feel this way?
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Boundaries at Play
You might be tempted to tell someone, “You can NOT rage at me,” or “You can NOT say cruel things to me.” While these are valid requests, they aren’t examples of healthy boundaries; instead, they are examples of your effort to control someone else’s behavior.
A healthy boundary is this, “When you rage at me, I feel threatened. I will leave (the room, the house, etc.) until we can communicate calmly.” The other person is free to rage to their heart’s content, but you don’t have to sit there and absorb all their anger and rage.
If you’re saying to yourself, “Why should I have to leave the room? They should have to stop raging!” you’re looking at boundaries backward. Healthy boundaries indicate that you’re not trying to change someone else’s behavior; instead, you are changing your behavior. Rather than demanding the other person stop doing whatever they’re doing, you need to focus on your response to them.
It feels great to set boundaries and have them respected! You’ll feel energized and, ironically, closer to the people that respect your boundaries. You will have happier and healthier relationships. Call or text Elizabeth today, and discover roadblocks you may encounter when setting and holding boundaries. Contact Elizabeth at (512)922-4822 or email@example.com.
Do you have a work associate, friend, or relative who’s having trouble with boundaries? Please share this with them!