Setting boundaries can include choosing what you want from your life and deciding who deserves to share those parts with you. The hard thing about setting boundaries is that many people might not like them. You must be true to yourself and do what is best for you as an individual, even if it means disappointing others. Here are some ways to start going through the process of setting healthy boundaries in your life.
Sometimes a little self-awareness goes a long way in strengthening boundaries. The truth is that it can take a lot of courage to say no to someone, but it's important to stand your ground.
Why Boundaries Are Necessary
Setting boundaries is crucial because it gives you the freedom to make choices without feeling pressured. Boundaries are what keep us from doing things we might regret. When you hold others responsible for their actions, they are less likely to try taking advantage of you. Setting boundaries also ensures that other people understand that you have your own life and don't need them to take care of you. You deserve to live a life where you can fully be yourself, not just an extension of another person's desires.
Define your boundaries
One of the first steps to setting boundaries is to think about what you want. Think about what your boundaries are and how they might affect your life. For example, do you want more free time? If so, you might need to free yourself off from something or someone to consider what you really want. That might be the friend who consistently turns up when they want something but then disappear when you need them. Or it might be a project that takes your time but doesn’t go anywhere and needs re-evaluating. It could even be your job.
Another important step in the process is to think about how your boundaries will be received. It can be difficult to set boundaries with people who have been close to us for a long time, but it's crucial if those people don't respect your needs or wants.
I remember a client many years ago who, whenever she met a certain friend for coffee, ended up paying. Her friend always had an excuse. At first, my client felt guilty even thinking about the fact that her friend might be taking advantage of her. This is the kind of generous person she was. She was too anxious to have a straightforward chat with her friend about what is happening as she did not want to sound accusatory and possibly lose that friend. There was of course much more to unwrap there, but for now, we needed a quick solution so I set her a challenge: Next time you go for a coffee only take enough money to pay for your drink. Don’t take cards. She was so conditioned by her friend’s unwillingness to take responsibility for her bill that she straight away got worried about her friend: “What if she really didn’t bring any money and then she will be in trouble?”
“Did you say you are inviting her for a coffee?”, I asked.
No, she didn’t. Her friend keeps saying that next time she will pay but then ends up finding another excuse not to and my client keeps paying the bill. “I promise you, she will have money, “ I reassured her.
One week later my client returned with a smile: “I did what you suggested. It was hard. When it came to paying my friend said she forgot her purse. Because I only took enough for my coffee I had no choice but not to rescue her as usual. Miraculously my friend found her card in her handbag.” It was time to re-evaluate that friendship and to have an honest and open conversation.
This is only a small example of how we can even get conditioned to having our boundaries violated and then being taken advantage of.
Consider whether or not you are willing to let people go if they don't agree with the boundaries that you have set. Remember that this does not necessarily mean being unfriendly or cutting people out of your life entirely; it just means being true to yourself and doing what’s best for you as an individual, even if it means disappointing others.
Create a plan to follow through on your boundaries
It can be hard to set boundaries, but it is possible. There are two parts to the process that will make setting boundaries successful. First, you must assess your current situation and relationships. This includes specific things like whether you want a relationship with someone, whether friendship, romantically or professionally. Think about what your ideal relationship with this person or situation is. Next, create an action plan for how you'll follow through on these boundaries. Whatever boundary you create, find out how to follow through on it and then do it!
Take action and tell people your boundaries
When someone does something you don't like, let them know how you feel about the situation. For example, if a friend asks for money every time they see you and that gets old quickly, let them know that you don't have any more money to give them. Be honest and direct with the person, but stay calm throughout the interaction. Another way to set healthy boundaries is by being clear about what your expectations are for different situations in your life. If someone wants some of your time or attention, be clear about when you are available or what kind of attention you are willing to give them.
What if no one wants to respect my boundaries?
If you set a boundary but no one wants to respect it, it may be time to re-evaluate. If you have tried setting boundaries with someone and they continue to push back or violate your boundary, then it may be time to reconsider the friendship or partnership. On the other hand, if the person respects your boundaries, then that’s great! You have found someone who will give you the space that you need.
Boundaries are key to healthy relationships and avoiding negative feelings. Setting boundaries with those around you, as well as with yourself, can be difficult. But it is possible to set boundaries and still have the relationships you want. Setting boundaries is the perfect testing ground to see if a relationship works for you or not.
When is the last time you evaluated your boundaries?