Do you know someone who is uncompromisingly direct? Someone who isn’t afraid to speak their mind and walk away when they’ve been crossed in some way? Someone who is REALLY good at expressing their needs and limits? Are you that person? If so, good for you! If not, not to worry. The truth is that setting boundaries is a skill many of us DON’T have. Frankly, it's quite difficult and does not come naturally to most people. However, learning to set and sustain healthy boundaries IS something you can learn. Which is a good thing, because boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and a healthy life. The first step in setting healthy boundaries is knowing and understanding your limits. It takes a certain amount of confidence to set and stick to boundaries, and honestly, sometimes you have to fake it till you make it! I have found that once you get in the habit, though, it will become second nature.
Here are five ways to build and maintain healthy boundaries:
- Name your limits: You can’t set a boundary if you don’t know where you stand. Consider what you can tolerate and accept your comfort levels. Recognize and give a voice to those limits. Neither right nor wrong, they are yours.
- Honor your feelings: You might fear another’s response. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. If something is making you uneasy, but your sister, friend, or mother thinks you’re “being ridiculous,” it’s vital that you stand firm and listen to what your body and intuition are telling you. Boundaries are all about honing in on your feelings and respecting them.
- Recognize when your boundaries have been crossed: Be aware of the red flags alerting you that you have let go of your established boundaries. Are you uncomfortable? Are you feeling resentment? Do you feel like you are being taking advantage of? These are often signs that you have been pushed beyond your limits and have allowed someone else to impose their values and expectations on you.
- Be direct: Learn to say what it is you need and what your limits are. This isn’t always easy. Some worry that they will come off sounding harsh or self-centered if they emphatically state a boundary. You might worry that you’re not being a good friend or partner or sibling. Learning to express your needs with confidence, care, and respect can be learned.
- Make self-care a priority: Fear, guilt and self-doubt are big potential pitfalls. We might fear the other person’s response if we set and enforce our boundaries. We might feel guilty about speaking up or saying no to a family member. It’s important to give yourself permission to put yourself first at times.
Boundaries aren’t just a sign of a healthy relationship; they are a sign of self-respect. So give yourself the permission to set boundaries and work to preserve them.
If you would like to learn more about setting and maintaining healthy boundaries and about establishing productive, healthy relationships with the people in your life, call Foundations today!