How To: Set Healthy Boundaries
Have you ever struggled with setting boundaries? You are not alone. At the very core of healthy relationships - with others and with yourself - is that one elusive skill: setting boundaries. Follow these 4 simple steps to hone in on your needs and honour them with a healthy framework of boundaries. It might just be easier than you think.
At the very core of maintaining healthy relationships with others and with yourself is one thing: boundaries. They are the key ingredient in fostering a balanced and abundant life of meaning and authenticity. They are essential to cultivating mutually respectful relationships and intimate connections with others.
According to psychologist Dr Diana Gionta, healthy boundaries are defined as "knowing and understanding your limits.” Defining these physical, mental and emotional limits is at the very heart of self-awareness and self-respect. By recognising and honouring our personal boundaries we can gain a sense of stability in our lives and foster trust and connection in our relationships. Plus, we can protect ourselves against those icky feelings of stress, resentment or unfulfillment.
Most people know this, right? And, maybe you’re one of those people. But, you might not have paid attention to developing the skill of building your boundaries. Are you guilty of this? I certainly am!
Sure, the process of gaining awareness of our values, needs, and desires, then communicating them with the outside world and following through, is a daunting task and can be difficult. But, if we tackle this challenge we can learn the importance of nurturing ourselves and honouring what we truly need.
We want to invite you to join us on this journey to balance with this list of useful tips on how to set healthy boundaries:
Become aware of your feelings.
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. ― Epictetus
Becoming aware of your feelings takes time. So, pace yourself and take your time throughout each day to cultivate moments of peace and stillness. This will allow you to tune in and feel what you have been suppressing or ignoring. Becoming conscious of your feelings can only happen if we slow down and create the space for them to arise.
Just like any skill, this will take practice. To help, whenever you experience negative feelings like discomfort, anxiety, resentment, really try to tune in. Ask yourself:
What feels wrong about this situation for me?
What or who is triggering my discomfort?
Ideally, what would change about this situation?
Instead of ignoring or suppressing these tricky emotions, open yourself up to receiving them fully and wholly. Treat them as signals which will help you in identifying your limits.
Give yourself permission to put yourself first.
Often, we can forget about our own needs. It’s just a symptom of the human experience. We show up for others before properly showing up for ourselves. But, properly showing up in our relationships can only happen after taking care of the relationship with the self first. You cannot pour from an empty cup, after all.
Remember, it is never a good idea to make yourself small or minimise yourself to satisfy someone else. Start with setting up this healthy boundary. You have a fundamental right to attend to your own needs. After all, they are just as valid as the needs of others. Try lighting a stick of incense and as it burns, assure yourself that, for this moment in time until the stick runs out, you are replenishing your inner resources. It will take commitment, but it is so worth it.
Be direct and focus on yourself.
Defining boundaries often means saying no to others: your partner, your friend, your boss… And, yes, it can be very difficult. We get it.
Get clear about your needs. Try not to beat around the bush and be quite direct without undermining or criticising someone else's opinions. Language, here, is very important. Be firm, but fair. Be respectful to everyone involved… that means being respectful to yourself, too. This is exactly where "I" statements come in very handy. Here's an example:
Instead of attacking your partner with:
"Stop being so touchy with me, it's really annoying!"
Instead, try saying:
"I feel overwhelmed when I am touched so much. What I need is more personal space when I first come home. Is there anything you need?”
Try it. It really can make the world of difference.
Reconsider your use of technology:
Our boundaries tend to get blurred when it comes to technology and our presence online. As hard as it can be sometimes, avoid spreading yourself too thin and protect your time and energy with these habits:
Turn off unnecessary notifications or put Do Not Disturb mode on when spending time with others or unwinding at the end of the day.
Learn to not respond to work-related stuff in your precious free time.
Remove the sense of urgency when someone calls you and you don't want to pick up. Get back to your friend later if possible.
Healthy boundaries are not walls. They are gates and fences that allow you to enjoy the beauty of your own garden. - Lydia Hall
Boundaries don’t need to feel like rules. They are the framework within which we can live a fun, healthy and happy life. They are the gates protecting the beauty of our own gardens. It’s up to us when we choose to keep them closed or when to swing them wide open.