How to Set Boundaries
Boundaries are the limits you set for yourself and others to protect your physical, mental and emotional health. They're an important part of being a healthy person–and in this blog post, we'll talk about why that's true!
Before we get started: I want to clarify what I mean by “boundaries.” A boundary is not the same thing as a limit or restriction; it's more like an invisible fence that keeps people from crossing over into your personal space without permission. It can be physical (like saying “no” when someone tries to hug or kiss you) or it can be emotional (like telling someone who texts constantly that they need to give you space).
Understanding Unhealthy Boundaries
Unhealthy boundaries are the opposite of healthy ones. They're rigid, controlling, and often self-destructive. If you have unhealthy boundaries, it's likely that you're either too open or too closed off from other people.
Here are some signs that your boundaries are unhealthy:
- You feel like others' needs always come before yours (or vice versa).
- Your relationships tend to be chaotic and volatile because no one can agree on how much space each person needs in order for them both to feel comfortable being themselves around each other.
- When someone asks for something from you–whether it's time or money–it CAN feels like an attack on who you are as an individual; they don't just want something from me; they want everything, and that can be draining.
Need Help With Boundaries?
Learning boundaries is an important tool to use to avoid stress and burnout, create better communication and strengthen relationships. Listen to our Podcast about Boundaries.
How To Set Boundaries in Relationships
Setting boundaries in relationships is a powerful way to take care of yourself and communicate your needs. Boundaries are limits you set on what you will or won't do, who you will or won't be around, what kind of behavior is acceptable in your life and how much time you can spend on certain activities.
Setting boundaries takes courage because it requires us to say “no” when we want something from someone else but know that asking would not be good for our relationship with them or ourselves. For example: If your friend wants to borrow money from you but doesn't have any way of paying it back, setting a boundary means saying no even though this might hurt their feelings (and yours).
Or perhaps there's someone at work who always asks for favors but never returns them–setting a boundary means telling this person that he needs to ask someone else next time instead of expecting others' help without giving anything back themselves.
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How To Set Boundaries With Family
Family boundaries are the limits you set with your family members. They can be physical, emotional or financial. For example, you may not want to lend money to your brother because he never pays back what he borrows from others. Or perhaps you'd like to spend more time with your mother but she's always asking for help with her bills and chores around the house–and it's getting tiresome!
Setting family boundaries is an important step in learning how to take care of yourself and make decisions that benefit only YOU (not everyone else). It might feel like a big deal at first because most likely no one else will understand why these changes are necessary; however, once they see how much happier and healthier their relationships become as a result of these changes–and especially when those who previously depended on them start taking responsibility for themselves–they'll thank their lucky stars!
How To Set Boundaries: with Yourself
When you set a boundary with yourself, it's about knowing what you will and won't do. It's about honoring your needs and desires. It's about taking care of yourself by making sure that no matter what happens in life, your needs will be met first.
Setting self-boundaries means being honest with yourself about how much time or energy or effort something takes–and then deciding if it's worth doing at all. It means saying “no” when someone asks for help with something that isn't important to you (or even if it is). It means asking others for what you need from them rather than assuming they'll know automatically without being asked directly (because they probably won't).
The reason why we need to learn how to set boundaries with ourselves is because often times we don't even realize when our own boundaries have been crossed until after we've crossed them! We get so caught up in trying not to offend people or make them mad at us that sometimes our own needs get pushed aside as secondary priorities–which leads us into feeling resentful over time because now there are things going on around us which aren't working out well but nobody seems bothered by any of this except ME?!
The Benefits of Boundaries
- Boundaries improve relationships.
- Boundaries improve mental health.
- Boundaries are essential for personal growth and development.
Tips for Setting Boundaries
- Be assertive. Assertiveness is the ability to express your needs and wants in a direct, honest way that's respectful of others. When you're assertive, you're able to say “no” without guilt or fear of being judged as selfish or mean-spirited.
- Be consistent. Consistency shows respect for yourself and others by letting them know what they can expect from you in future interactions with them–and also helps keep things simple!
- Be respectful: Boundaries aren't meant as an attack on anyone else; they exist solely because YOU need them! So don't use harsh language when setting boundaries; instead try saying something like “I'm sorry but…” or “I'd rather not…”
Breaking Unhealthy Boundaries
Breaking unhealthy boundaries is not an easy task. It can be challenging to know where your boundaries are, especially if you have never set them before. When you break an unhealthy boundary, it's important to take some time for self-care and reflection so that you can move forward in a healthy way.
If you have broken an unhealthy boundary with someone else:
- Think about how the other person might be feeling after your interaction. Did they seem hurt? Was their behavior different after speaking with you? If so, what do these changes mean for your relationship going forward?
- Consider what caused this particular incident of breaking a boundary–was it due to feelings of guilt or obligation (and therefore making excuses), or did something else happen during this interaction that led up to crossing over into uncomfortable territory (e.g., being pressured by someone else)?
Thoughts About How To Set Boundaries?
Boundaries are an important part of any healthy relationship. They allow you to define what is acceptable and what isn't, which gives you the power to make decisions about your life without relying on others. Setting boundaries also helps you avoid feeling like a doormat or taking responsibility for someone else's behavior.
Setting boundaries doesn't mean that we're going to be mean or controlling; it simply means that we're going to take care of ourselves first so that we can be better able to care for others in our lives later on.
The key points from this blog:
- Be clear about what you want and need; don't assume anyone knows what they should do
- If someone isn't respecting your wishes, let them know how their actions affect YOU personally rather than making blanket statements such as “I don't like when people do X.”
- Use I Statements: Say something specific like “When [name] does Y/Z with me I feel Z/A because…” That way there is no room left open for interpretation!
About the Author
Randi Owsley, LMSW is a Licensed Master of Social Worker and clinical psychotherapist and co-host of the podcast Unapologetically Randi and Jess. She has her Masters of Clinical Social Work from the University of Southern California. She specializes in Women's Mental Health Issues, Trauma, Grief and Personality Disorders. You can find more information about her at randiowsley.com and heyrandi.com