Defining & Setting Boundaries
Boundaries are highly personal and subjective. Several factors will influence how many limitations we set or what they will be.
Our upbringing, past experiences, culture, and personality are all factors that will shape our boundaries.
To properly define your boundaries, you need to know your rights and what constitutes fundamental universal human rights.
Knowing your human rights will make it easier for you to honor them and let others know about your boundaries.
Another way to define boundaries is to tune in to your instincts. If you already feel that something is off with your relationship, it at least warrants consideration on your end.
In some instances, our body reacts negatively whenever a situation doesn’t sit well with us.
Your quickened heart rate, sweating, experiencing a tightening in the chest, feeling that lump in your throat or those knots in your stomach could be physiological signals that stem from your instincts.
Honouring your values and knowing your non-negotiables can also help you define your boundaries. If a person or a situation compromises your values, then it might signify something’s wrong in the relationship.
Setting Boundaries That Are Healthy
There are 6 types of Personal Boundaries that you may want to consider.
Read: 6 Types of Boundaries
When you’ve defined your boundaries, the next step is to implement limits and let yourself draw a line in the sand with confidence.
Be prepared that not all people will react positively to your limitations, but that should be fine with you, because you’re putting yourself first over what others think.
Setting healthy boundaries is not just for you but should also help others positively connect with you.
Step #1 Learn To Be Assertive
We often associate being assertive with aggressiveness and that might put you off. However, there is a way to be assertive while remaining kind but firm to others.
We can communicate our boundaries clearly through emphatic language without sounding like we are blaming or threatening the other person.
To be assertive, you need to use “I statements” to keep the focus on you and not on the other person. You can frame your statements to something like this:
I feel (name your emotion here) when (state the situation that makes you uncomfortable) because (calmly explain your reason). What I need is (state what you want the other person to do).
Using “I statements” shows that you’re confident and that you know your limits.
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Step #2 Learn to Say No
In reality, saying no to someone can be daunting. We often feel the need to justify why we said no, which could add even more emotional burden on us.
However, a no is already a complete sentence – it simply means no. If the other person has enough respect for your personal boundaries, then they won’t find this response offensive. They will accept, even if they don’t necessarily agree at the time.
Saying no is already a statement in itself that someone is already crossing the line. A positive no is a nicer way to deliver the message. Meaning you just need to frame it with respect and kindness.
Step #3 Protect Your Personal Space
Your personal space can also extend to your physical environment and your belongings. Your e-mails and social media accounts all belong to your personal space, and you have the right to protect them at all times.
You also have the right to protect your communication with others, even from those who are close to you.
Protecting your personal space will ensure that you have healthy privacy and that you have authority over what you feel comfortable sharing with others.
What I would say though is there is Privacy and there is Secrecy. They are two very different things. For a relationship it’s ok to have privacy but secrecy will be known as a deal breaker.
Step #4 Make Time For Self-Care
Self-care allows you to put yourself and your needs above others. Setting boundaries ensures that you have enough time to prioritize yourself and permits you to do things that will make you feel better.
When we set time for self-care, we recognize our feelings and allow ourselves to honor them.
Self-care also makes us feel better about ourselves, it boosts your self-esteem. Which then helps us become better friends, co-workers, partners, or parents.
Step #5 Ask For Help
Enforcing our limits and boundaries is not always easy. There are situations that will challenge you when it comes to protecting your space.
There are even times when you may begin to question if you’re right to enforce these personal boundaries.
If you’re having difficulty setting and maintaining your boundaries, you can always seek help from others.
Whether it is from a good friend, a family member, a counsellor, seeking out support when things get challenging for you will make boundaries easier to justify and enforce. It will also help you deal any emotional baggage attached to it like – guilt.
Step #6 Take Small Steps
Like learning any new skill, learning to be assertive and being confident in enforcing your boundaries takes time and practice.
Most of us are not raised to assert our boundaries, and we are often concerned about how others will perceive us.
Most people want to be liked by others and when you set limitations you are going to be received with mixed responses. But we need to learn how to set and communicate our limits in a firm, direct and kind way.
Take baby steps and start small. It may be as simple as saying no to a coffee break with a toxic colleague or turning off your mobile phone to give yourself some peace and quiet.
Then build upon your success and work your way up. Keep in mind that being assertive and learning to say no takes courage and confidence – and those two things that take practice to develop.
Personal Growth Resources
Conclusion on Setting Boundaries
Boundaries are not meant for us to distance ourselves from others and limit our interactions with the people around us.
When we set boundaries, we show compassion and kindness to ourselves, which allows us to become a better person – whether that may be as a friend, colleague, parent, or partner.
Our instincts and upbringing all play a role in defining our boundaries. Many of us find setting boundaries to be challenging, as most people believe that being assertive also means being aggressive and disrespectful of others.
However, we can learn to draw the line while also being firm and kind.
Boundaries are there to ensure that we are safe and that our needs are met. Having boundaries is our way of showing respect for others and for ourselves.
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