Let’s talk boundaries. If you’ve ever been to a therapy session or if things like self-improvement, self-care, and mental health are among your main interest, you’re surely familiar with the concept. Over the past few years, we’ve seen people all over the internet discuss the importance of setting boundaries and how it can change your life, turning this simple term into a major buzzword. From mental health experts to influencers and regular people, everyone seems to have something to say about it.
But despite all this talk about boundaries and their transformative power, there’s still a lot of confusion regarding the concept. That’s because different people have different takes on what boundaries mean and how they should translate into real life, and also because there are so many misconceptions about them that it’s difficult to figure out what’s true and what’s false.
The truth is boundaries can take many forms. They’re not the same for everyone and it’s up to each individual to create his own set of boundaries that could help them achieve optimum mental health. So, if you want to learn more on the topic and find out how you can set healthy boundaries yourself, this short guide will provide some very useful tips in this respect.
What does setting healthy boundaries really mean?
You may have heard that setting boundaries represents a very important aspect in protecting your mental, emotional, and even physical health. But what are boundaries all about?
In simple terms, healthy boundaries can be defined as limits or guidelines that you create in order to let others know what you’re are and aren’t comfortable with. Boundaries give you the mental, emotional and physical space to express your identity and feel safe around other people. They can look like choosing to keep your private life separate from your professional life, removing yourself from situations that make you feel uncomfortable, refusing to discuss certain topics with your friends or family, setting aside alone time for yourself, etc.
Boundaries shouldn’t be seen as rules that you force upon others. They do indicate how others should behave around you, but they have to do more with the way you manifest. It’s about communicating your needs and expressing what you can and can’t accept into your life, in order to build stronger, healthier relationships.
Another misconception that should be addressed is that boundaries are limited to romantic relationships, which is completely untrue. Quite the opposite: healthy boundaries are necessary for all relationships, including those with family members, friends, neighbors, or coworkers.
How can you establish healthy boundaries?
Now that you know what’s behind the buzzword, it’s time to find out how you can implement healthy boundaries in your life. Although it seems like a fairly simple thing to do, establishing boundaries does have its challenges. It’s quite common for people to feel guilty when going through the process or have trouble identifying and expressing their needs. But there’s a solution for everything. If you’re having a hard time establishing healthy boundaries, these tips can help you out.
Assess your needs
As strange as it might sound, a lot of people lack boundaries because they don’t really understand their wants and needs. They’ve spent so much time focusing on others and their needs that they’ve neglected their own and lost touch with themselves. It can take some introspection to figure out what changes you have to make and where you need boundaries the most in order to achieve the level of comfort and safety your desire.
So, start your journey with some self-reflection and give yourself the necessary time to acknowledge your feelings and desires. Becoming fully aware of how boundaries can benefit your wellbeing will show you the right path to take.
Evaluate your relationships
It’s important to look inside yourself to find answers and guidance, but it’s just as important to look around you. Apart from exploring your inner world, you also have to focus on the relationships you’ve cultivated so far and evaluate them in terms of boundaries.
The way you interact with the people around you and how that makes you feel will help you identify the areas in your life that could use some adjustments. You might come to realize that some relationships aren’t bringing you any value at all while others could be much improved by speaking up and setting clear limits.
Be clear about your limits
Speaking of clarity, one of the golden rules of setting boundaries is to be as clear as possible when you define them. Stating what you need and how you want your boundaries to be respected in a clear, calm, and unapologetic manner will leave no room for interpretation.
That’s important because sometimes boundaries can do a lot more than help you develop better relationships. They can protect you against unwanted behavior that could go as far as sexual abuse. However, it should be mentioned that if you do experience something like this it’s not your lack of boundaries that caused it, and compensation is available to victims of sexual abuse.
Setting boundaries can be a little daunting when you’ve never made an effort in this sense before and you are unfamiliar with the process. But keep in mind you don’t have to do it all in one go.
If you’re having a hard time saying no, or expressing how you feel about certain situations, you should start small and work your way up in time. Feel free to add more boundaries as you go, or tweak them according to your needs, so they align with your current values and context.
Consistency is key when it comes to setting healthy bounties and keeping them in place. At times, you might feel tempted to let certain things slide or give people a pass, but that will only create confusion and make you look indecisive.
It’s important to hold your ground, even when you fear you might attract negative reactions. Remember this is a process that requires time and patience, and not everyone will see eye to eye with you. However, you have to stay true to yourself and your values, and that includes respecting your boundaries.