Setting boundaries comes down to communication. Communicating your needs and desires is the most vital step toward defining your limitations and living a more liberated existence.
The first and most important step to defining your boundaries is to make them concrete. Boundaries are often confusing and abstract because they feel invisible in our daily lives.
However, by visualizing your boundaries and writing them down, you can get much more clarity on where you want to draw the line between you and other people.
Set aside some time to reflect on the state of your life. Ask yourself:
Draw a large circle on a blank piece of paper. Inside the circle, write everything that makes you feel safe and stress-free.
On the outside of the circle, write down anything that causes you discomfort, pain, annoyance, or emotional exhaustion. These are the people or situations pushing the limits of your boundaries.
This circle represents a visible manifestation of your limits. It's time to take anything outside the circle and determine how you can define a boundary that will prevent or eliminate those issues in the future.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is setting boundaries in their minds but not openly sharing them with the people in their life. Sometimes people assume that you should know their boundaries. But if they didn't clearly communicate where they've drawn the line, how will you know when you've overstepped it?
This can seem daunting and scary, but it can feel like a significant relief once you get it out of the way. As social psychology researcher Brene Brown says, "clear is kind, unclear is unkind." Once you know your boundaries, you have to communicate them.
Take a deep breath, gather your resolve, and assertively express your needs in a kind, direct way. Here's how:
Fortunately, once someone is aware of your boundaries, most people will respect them and apologize if they accidentally cross the line. Without clear communication, the lines become blurred. You can quickly find yourself crossing into the more dangerous territory of getting burned out, taken advantage of, or even neglecting your own needs.
The more precise and direct you can communicate your boundaries, the easier it will be to uphold them. Boundaries are like the "rules" of a relationship. When they're displayed for all parties involved, it is much easier to respect them.
Like the invisible perimeter fence around a yard protects a dog from running into the street, boundaries protect you from overextending your mental and emotional well-being.
But the dog has to be trained not to cross that line. They have to understand where their yard begins and ends. It takes time, repetition, and patience.
The same is true of human boundaries. Not everyone will understand or respect your boundaries the first time. It's essential to stand firm in your decision while kindly reminding them of your needs when necessary.
A dog will get confused if the yard ends at the bushes one day but extends to the sidewalk the next. If someone doesn't initially respect your boundary, remind them, but stay consistent with your original decision.
Pro Tip: Avoid shifting your boundaries for somebody else's comfort. If you said, "I don't feel comfortable with you contacting me about work after hours," you probably don't want to send the message that "sometimes it's OK for you to text me late at night." While it may be awkward or uncomfortable initially, a person who truly wants to be in your life will respect your decision.
Have you ever met someone who seemed to say "yes" to everything? People afraid to say "no" often end up with an overflowing plate of duties and responsibilities that they can't seem to keep up with. They tend to forgo their self-care as they frantically try to meet the demands of all the people and things they said "yes" to.
"No" is a powerful word. It sounds strikingly similar in dozens of languages and can be recognized by simple gestures or facial expressions.
Yet so many people in the modern-day have been programmed to feel guilty for their "no's." In reality, to say "no" is to draw a line in the sand. It is an expression of courage, self-love, and sovereignty over your daily decisions.
Remember that every "yes" and "no" shapes your reality. You have the power to choose how you will spend your time and energy. If something doesn't feel right in your gut, you probably shouldn't do it. The word "no" is essential for healthy boundaries.
If you need help saying "no" more often, check out our 6 Effective Tips to Politely Say No.
Action Tip: Saying "no" doesn't have to be rude, but it also doesn't require an apology or an explanation. Notice where in your life you say "I'm sorry, I can't" or "maybe, let me get back to you" when you just mean "no." Pay attention to how you can shift these simple conversations to more clearly draw a boundary instead of leaving another person waiting for a clear answer. The clarity of your communication will ultimately benefit all parties involved.
Amidst our fast-moving world, self-care can feel selfish or even frivolous. But the science of self-care is clear: taking alone time for yourself is linked to more confidence, greater creativity, more emotional intelligence, and more emotional stability in challenging situations. It can even help prevent burnout.
Action Tip: For the next month, set aside a solid 2-hour block of time on your calendar each week specifically for "me time." Let your close family and friends know that you won't be available during this time. Whether you're cooking a healthy meal for yourself, getting outside, taking a rest day, hitting the yoga studio, or lounging on the beach with a good book, creating time for yourself is crucial for healthier boundaries.
But what does self-care have to do with boundaries?
Solitude allows you to reflect on your life and your values. The time you set aside for self-care can help bring more clarity into your relationships with other people, ultimately helping you define your boundaries.
To many, this may seem selfish. Modern society's tendency toward self-sacrifice and workaholism has led a large majority of people to dismiss their boundaries or sacrifice their well-being to please other people. Ironically, this can often have the opposite effect than they'd like.
Self-care and healthy boundaries are not selfish; they are a form of self-love that leads to deeper relationships and more fulfilling experiences.
As the saying goes: you cannot pour from an empty cup. Healthy boundaries are a way to fill your cup so that you can offer more joy and help to the world.
When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.
We do not offer, recommend or refer for abortions or abortifacients, but are committed to offering accurate information about abortion procedures and risks.