Boundaries – being clear about what your limits are – are necessary to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed by the demands of other people. Without boundaries, you are likely to be overburdened, stressed, and resentful, and it’s up to you to set and maintain your limits. You are ultimately the only one responsible for your happiness and wellbeing, no one else can do it for you. So, if you truly want to be your best you, you need to learn how to set healthy boundaries.
Many of us (myself included) often are more likely to say yes and try to people-please. If you find it hard to say no, and it’s affecting your wellbeing, you need to stop, take a step back, and recalibrate. Setting these boundaries may be hard at first, but in the long run it will help you to be happier and healthier, and have better relationships with those around you.
Here are five key elements for setting healthy boundaries:
1. Know your limits
Knowing yourself is the key to creating and maintaining good boundaries. Know your emotional, mental, and physical limits. Really take time to see what feels right and what feel wrong or like you’re forcing yourself to do it. Become an observer to see what you’re saying yes to just to make someone else happy. Work out what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed and what feels good.
2. Learn how to read your feelings & body response
In assessing where your limits are, you will have a range of different emotions. Two key emotions that signal that your boundaries are being crossed are resentment and discomfort. If you feel like you’re being taken advantage of, not appreciated, or even being exploited, that’s a pretty clear sign you’re being pushed beyond your boundaries, and it’s time to reassert those boundaries and say no. Check in with your body response, too – if the idea of something you’re being asked to do makes your whole body tense or your stomach feel tight, that’s usually a pretty clear sign that should be a boundary and a no.
3. Give yourself permission to enforce your boundaries
It’s okay to say no. In fact, it’s necessary for your self-respect to maintain your boundaries and refuse an unwelcome request. Trust me, I know it’s easier said than done, but there doesn’t need to be guilt or self-doubt in this. Having clear boundaries and sticking to them is not selfish. In putting yourself first, you’re ensuring that you will have the energy to do the things you want to do and be there for people when its right for you.
4. Be clear about what’s up for negotiation
Know what you need to stay happy and healthy, whether it’s your daily walk, your time alone, your work time. Make it clear that these are non-negotiable parts of your daily schedule. Similarly, be clear with what you will and won’t do (i.e. – “I won’t host parties, but I don’t mind contributing food or drinks to one”; or “I don’t share food because of dietary issues” ). Being clear and direct about your boundaries leaves no room for doubt, guilt, or leverage.
5. Be direct
When you’re clear about your boundaries, you don’t need an excuse, a long explanation or a backstory. Be direct and leave it at that. You can be polite and kind about it, but in the end, it really is okay just to say no and keep your boundaries strong.
The more you practice setting boundaries, the easier it will be to stick to them. You’ll find yourself feeling happier and healthier, and you’ll find it easier to communicate and maintain relationships because people know what to expect. Not setting boundaries just leaves room for everyone to get taken advantage of and leads to resentment and frustration. Saying no is good for everyone.
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