How to Set Boundaries and Why You Should

I once asked a client what her boundaries were and her answer… blank stare and crickets in the room.  After a moment of considering my question she honestly replied “I’ve never given that any thought.  I guess I don’t really have any.”  Setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that many of us don’t learn.

Having healthy boundaries means knowing and understanding what your limits are. Consider the following five ideas about boundaries, what they are and how to implement them.

1. No boundaries = little self esteem.

Your boundaries are your values. Boundaries are representative of how much or little you respect yourself.  Often times we don’t set and keep boundaries because we are afraid of how others will react to our boundaries and we are afraid of a strong negative reaction.  We are valuing their feelings over our own needs and allowing ourselves to be intimidated instead of setting boundaries to take care of ourself.

2. Decide what your core values are.

Who are you? What do you value? Figure out what, exactly, you’re comfortable with and what you need. For example, because my job requires a great deal of emotional energy, I have to schedule time for myself.  For me, this happens in the morning.  I don’t take work related calls or make appointments until late morning to ensure I have time to rejuvenate and take care of myself.  Once you get clear on what matters most to you, then you can take bigger step of communicating this to others.

Instead of creating your boundaries around a difficult relationship in your life, you must make your boundaries about you. For example, my boundaries with my morning time is about honoring the fact that I need to take care of myself in order to stay healthy and serve my clients well.  This boundary is to decrease my stress level and not about avoiding others’ phone calls or distancing myself from loved ones.

3. Decide the consequences ahead of time.

So what do we do if anyone pushes our boundaries (because they will)? Decide what the consequences are. For example, if a client calls me repeatedly during a time-frame I had shared I would not be able to talk, I know that I simply do not answer the phone and I return the call as soon as I am able. I don’t throw a fit about them calling but I do hold the line so I can keep taking good care of myself.

4. Let your behavior, not your words, speak for you.

I have a friend that just could not get her head around the fact that I wouldn’t make plans for early mornings.  She kept asking to meet for coffee around 8am even after multiple conversations and explanations on why that would not work for me.  I used to get so upset that she kept asking!  I felt completely disrespected.  But after the third go around with her I simply started replying with three words when she’d ask if I could meet early in the morning… “No, I can’t.”  I realized the issue was more hers than it was mine.  People will test, push and disrespect your limits. You’ll know you’re getting healthier when this doesn’t get an emotional reaction out of you. When your boundaries are your core beliefs (such as taking care of yourself) you will not get riled up when you are tested.

5. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

The biggest part of boundaries is how clearly you communicate them.You can have the most healthy set of boundaries on the planet but if you do not communicate them clearly, you are going to create some really confusing relationships, both for you and everyone else involved.

One way to quickly get someone to question your character or authenticity? Say one thing and do another. Sometimes we’re afraid to confront others with truth in love or relationships. We’re afraid to tell people what we really want or need, to admit that we hate going to certain restaurants, or have trouble spending time with a friend’s toxic family, or hate when people don’t consider our needs. We conceal our true feelings because we’re scared of people’s reactions. The more you ground yourself with your boundaries and values, the more you’ll be able to be very clear in your communication.  It’s a process, trust me, I get it!  But it can be done.  Get clear on what your boundaries are then start taking steps to communicate them to others and hold the line.  You’re worth it.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more support.  You’re not in this alone.

Written by Lisa Smith

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