Do you tend to have trouble setting healthy boundaries, especially with loved ones? Do you worry about hurting other people’s feelings and, therefore, take many things you dislike lying down? It’s time to change that!
It would be best if you had positive boundaries to maintain a good level of well-being. Without boundaries, you won’t be able to continue genuine, honest, or truly healthy relationships with those around you. But how can you do it? Here are 5 ways to set and maintain healthy boundaries around people you care about.
1. Know Yourself
To set healthy boundaries, you must know what kinds of boundaries you need. You can’t do that if you don’t know yourself first. Here are some things you should be aware of regarding yourself before you start setting boundaries:
What are your personal beliefs and values? It’s important that you first and foremost determine what matters to you before you decide where your boundaries lie. Often, you might make a boundary dictated by one person’s negative actions towards you, which results in them being too harsh on those you love. On the other end of the spectrum, you might be worried about offending people with boundaries, and consequently, make boundaries too loose. So focus, first, on your values, and identify how other people poking at them may hurt you.
People often make the mistake of trying to rationalize everything they experience. When they are uncomfortable with something, they might not set a boundary there because they think there’s no “rational” or logical reason to be uncomfortable in the first place. But emotions are a part of human nature! If something elicits a negative reaction, you need to know if it’s something you should set a boundary for or work on personally.
Once you understand your values and feelings, you can get more specific about limits. Different people will likely have different limits in your list of boundaries. For example, you’ll have much more relaxed limits with a significant other than you would with a colleague. What are you uncomfortable discussing, and where do the limits scale for your different relationships? Do you have personal space requirements, and if so, how do they differ by the person? If you need to, draw up a chart of different people and boundaries and mark off the limit for each person.
2. Communicate Your Boundaries
For others to be aware of your boundaries, you have to inform them that they exist. But communication about boundaries must be done correctly to be effective. Here are some tips for talking about your boundaries in a productive, effective, and positive way:
· Be Assertive
Your boundaries and needs are clear-cut. Don’t let other people talk over you, invalidate you, or test to see how far they can push your limits. When you talk about your boundaries, make sure you sound like you mean every word. Others need to understand that what you’re talking about is serious and important. If you’re not used to being assertive, practice until you can convey that seriousness to those around you. It’s an important part of positive boundary enforcement.
· Be Direct
If you’re talking about your boundaries, you can’t leave any room for miscommunication and error. Be honest and even blunt about where your limits are, and try to keep in mind the communication style and comprehension ability of the person you’re talking to. Don’t hint about what you need, be direct and genuine – especially if the person you’re speaking to is of a different cultural background, personality type, or is an individual neurodivergent. In closer relationships, sometimes boundary talk can be more of a discussion or compromise. If that’s the case for some of your relationships, make sure you continue the directness pattern throughout.
· Say, “No Thanks.”
No is a complete sentence, and the word “no” is sufficient communication in many circumstances, especially among those you aren’t particularly close to. Don’t feel like you must always provide a lengthy excuse for your boundaries. If you say “no, thank you” to something, that’s effective and direct communication and should be respected. Try learning to say “no thanks” without tacking on a lengthy reason!
· Prepare A Disclaimer
For certain people, you may be worried about hurting their feelings, and it might be important enough to you that you are kind to them in explaining your boundaries. In this case, it’s helpful to prepare an honest but gentle disclaimer. Start by informing them of your decision to set boundaries first, talking genuinely about why this is a crucial and big step for you. Focus on talking about your well-being. The people who care about you, even if it stings to hear at first, will understand.
Now that you’ve set your boundaries, you must make sure they are enforced. Nothing good will come of boundaries that people can see they are allowed to break left and right. Here are some ways to enforce your boundaries and ensure that they are respected:
· Speak Through Actions, Not Words
When you tell someone to respect your boundaries, it should go without saying that you won’t engage with them if they disrespect those limits. When someone tries to get a rise out of you by being dismissive or ignoring boundaries, please don’t give them a berating reaction. Instead, ignore them and disengage from interaction with them. Your actions will tell them all they need to know about respecting your needs.
· Determine Consequences For Boundary-Breaking
No matter how well you set your boundaries, someone is sure to break them, whether intentionally or unintentionally. To avoid being stunned at the moment, it’s a good idea to decide from the beginning what will happen when someone breaks your boundaries. How will you remind them to be respectful? At what point do you start enforcing ultimatums? How much understanding will you give those who matter most to you for their learning process to respect your boundaries?
· When You Say Something, Mean It
If you want people to take you seriously, you have to mean what you say. So when you enforce a boundary, mean it. When you warn someone of consequences, follow through. And when you tell someone how they can better interact with you, make sure you respond positively when they put that into practice. If your words don’t seem to match up with reality, people will stop listening.
4. Respect Yourself
Often, people fall into the trap of denying themselves boundaries because they don’t respect themselves enough. Even if you’ve started to try setting some limits, if you lack self-respect, the chances are that you’ll struggle to maintain them. That’s why respecting yourself is central to maintaining healthy boundaries around people you care about. Here are some tips for doing so:
· Give Yourself Permission
Many people feel guilty about setting boundaries because they feel they don’t deserve it or hurt others. If you feel this way, learn to step back and permit yourself to be “selfish” about these things. You deserve the respect of your limits!
· Build Your Self-Esteem
If you haven’t set boundaries before, the chances are that your self-esteem and positive thinking regarding yourself are very, very low. Keeping in mind that your self-esteem is important and working on that on the side will help you feel more like you deserve the boundaries you set up.
· Prioritize Self-Care
Putting self-care as a priority in your life is a great way to practice the principles of boundary-setting. Why? Well, it sets a pattern: you are permitting yourself to let yourself come first. You get boosts to your positive thinking, energy, outlook, and mental health when you care for yourself, and you learn that it’s okay to come first now and then, especially when it comes to your wellbeing.
5. Work On It Step By Step
If you’re not used to maintaining boundaries, trying to set a whole bunch of them at once and manage them with different people can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s totally okay to take it slowly and go one step at a time. This gradual learning process lets you ease yourself into the habit of setting and enforcing boundaries without it being too tall of an order. Here are some ways to work on your healthy boundaries, step by step:
· Start With Something Small
When you learn to set boundaries, you’re learning a new skill. That skill may not come naturally to you, and if so, it’s okay to start small. Set a reasonable and easy boundary first, then gradually work your way up to the more intimidating boundaries. Communicate about each one, in turn, incrementally increasing their severity until you’re confident enough to maintain all your personal boundaries. Remember – challenge yourself, but don’t overwhelm yourself!
· Keep Practising
As with any skill, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries will take practice. For it to become a seamless habit, you need to work on it regularly. Affirm your boundaries and practice enforcing them, beginning with the people closest to you and working your way outwards to other less-tight-knight relationships.
· Work With A Friend
Working together with a friend who is also learning to set boundaries can help you find motivation. You can support each other, cheer each other on, and learn from each other as you go. The feedback that you can provide to each other will be instrumental in keeping you inspired and realistic!
· Request Assistance
If you face many challenges setting boundaries, there is no shame in seeking personal or professional help for the learning process. This is especially true if you’re working through trauma or have many mental disorders that affect your ability to set and enforce realistic and positive boundaries. In that case, the advice and guidance of a mental health professional will work wonders.
Boundaries are crucial to every single human being. They keep us safe, comfortable, and secure around others. Even in close, loving relationships, boundaries are necessary, and each person will experience a different preference when it comes to limits. Don’t be afraid to take your time to find yours.