At some point or another, you have likely set a boundary, tried to set a boundary that was not respected, or have heard from someone that you should be setting boundaries. Boundaries are essential for your self-care, self-value, and overall health. As a therapist, I frequently see individuals and relationships struggle due to the lack of boundaries present.
Oftentimes, boundaries fall to the wayside because the boundaries were not clear, were not followed-through with, or were non-existent all together. Moreover, a common reason for a lack of boundaries is wanting to please others. Well, as you’ve likely heard, you cannot please others if you are not pleasing and taking care of yourself first.
If you are ready to get your boundaries on the right path, read below. If you’re unsure whether your boundaries are being set appropriately, then read these tips to verify.
1. Reflect On Your Needs
Before beginning the process of setting boundaries, the first step is to reflect on on your needs and your emotional experiences. When have you felt at your best? When this was happening, what boundaries did you have in place? What values and beliefs do you have and how do these relate to your emotions and needs? Start thinking about yourself and what you really value before starting to solidify the boundaries that you want to implement. In this process, remember that it’s ok to prioritize yourself. You are important and boundaries serve to protect this importance.
2. Be Clear On What You Want
The second step to setting boundaries is getting clarity as to what you want. In this think about your desired outcome. What would it look like if people were respecting your boundaries? In this thought process, be thinking about all the sub-questions attached. Such as, what are your non-negotiable items? What are your limits in all the various areas of your life (i.e. physically, emotionally, mentally, etc)? At what point do you start to feel that you have exhausted yourself or pushed your limit? Lastly, think about how these limits are applied in the various environments of your life. For example, what are your limits at work, at home, in romantic relationships, with family, and with friends? Oftentimes, boundaries can vary based on the setting that you are in and who you are with. So, be sure to think about your boundaries across the board.
3. Communicate Your Boundaries
Once you have gained clarity around what you want and what boundaries need to be implemented as a result, start to communicate these. It is often scary and/or anxiety provoking to communicate boundaries. I get it! It’s not an easy process. To help you in this process, find a way to practice for yourself what you would want to say. May be you have a trusted friend who you can practice with. Or maybe, you journal out your thoughts beforehand. These practices can help you to feel more confident in communicating your boundaries with the necessary parties. Now, when you communicate these boundaries, remember to be respectful. You do not need to put down others or blame others in this process. Rather, state what you need and what you are not negotiating on.
4. Follow-Through With Your Boundaries
Boundaries have no meaning if they are not followed-through with. Think about it. If you clearly define your needs, clearly define what boundaries protect your needs, and communicate your boundaries, but don’t follow through with them- then they are not going to be respected. Boundaries are often pushed. This is a predictable outcome. So, be kind in reminding others of the boundaries that you have. Take ownership of the ways that you can protect and follow-through with your boundaries. This responsibility cannot be dependent on someone else because if it is, it will ultimately fail.
Now is the time to start thinking about your physical, mental, and emotional needs in all areas of your life. Start setting boundaries to set your health up for success. Reflect on your needs, be clear on what you really want, communicate your boundaries, and follow-through with your boundaries. Your health and relationships will be rewarded.
About the Author
Amanda Cummins is a marriage counselor with The Marriage and Family Clinic. She focuses on working with couples in distress as well as families and children in transitions. As a Denver Native, Amanda enjoys hiking, yoga, and spending time with her family