Setting healthy boundaries is an essential skill to have in life, useful in managing relationships and creating an optimal environment that supports our well-being. Yet, boundary-setting is a lot easier in theory than practice. We all people struggle from time to time to express our needs in an authentic and respectful manner.
Perhaps it’s difficult for you to say no to other people, or you feel the urge to please them. Unfortunately, as a result, you might develop a habit of putting others’ needs above your own and, by prioritizing them, lose touch with yourself.
In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of setting healthy boundaries and look into practical tips on how to set them up successfully. Keep on reading to find out more.
What are Healthy Boundaries?
The purpose of setting healthy boundaries is to protect our physical and mental space, ensuring that we take care of our needs and try our best to find a balance between ourselves and the outside world, romantic partners, family members, friends, etc. Sometimes it might seem like boundary-setting is all about hard rules and keeping people at arm’s length. Yet, it’s rather about creating an atmosphere where everyone involved can feel safe and respected.
Healthy boundaries have many other benefits, such as:
- providing clarity when it comes to expectations,
- playing a role in establishing our identities as we define our needs and communicate them to others
- increased sense of independence, authenticity, and self-confidence
- they support healthy, safe relationships
- reduction of stress, resentment, and risk of burnout
Sings of Unhealthy Boundaries
On the other side of the spectrum, there are also unhealthy boundaries, but sometimes it can get confusing, and the difference is a bit blurry. If you’re unsure whether you have good or poor boundaries within a relationship or with yourself, look for those signs:
- you don’t actually know what is and isn’t okay in a specific context, i.e., relationships, workplace, family
- after meeting a specific person/place/group, you leave feeling drained energetically, resentful, low, anxious, or generally less happy than you’d like.
- moments when someone dominates conversations,
- manipulative behavior of others
- sharing too much personal information (without being asked)
If you continuously let other people cross your limits, if you tend to stretch yourself too thin trying to satisfy others, then you run the risk of having more conflicts and feeling resentful towards others. Most of all, not setting your boundaries can put a significant strain on your mental and physical well-being.
The Importance of Setting Healthy Boundaries: 3 Tips
Setting healthy boundaries is all about knowing what works for you. It’s about being realistic about setting limits with yourself and with those around you. Here’s how you can get started:
1. Engage in self-reflection:
Spending time on self-reflection, connecting with your thoughts and feelings, and gaining clarity on your needs is a great start. It can involve tuning into your emotions and asking yourself: “What do I need to feel better, safer, well-respected, and appreciated?”.
If you have some already existing boundaries in relationships with others, revise them and define a new one that would benefit you. It will ultimately help bring more mindfulness, clarity, and balance into all of your relationships.
2. Remember that it’s okay to say “no”:
Keep in mind at all times throughout this process that it is absolutely okay to say no, decline someone’s request for your time and choose to put yourself first – guilt-free. Remember that you don’t owe anyone your time, energy, or favors. Sometimes, saying no to another person means saying yes to yourself and vice versa. Your “no” can often symbolize your authenticity, a sense of self-worth, and willingness to protect your well-being.
3. Remain assertive & use “I” statements:
Are you ready to put all this theory into practice?
Think of a situation from your past or present when you wished you stated your boundaries differently. To explain the formula, here’s an example:
Let’s say your romantic partner wants to spend some time together throughout the weekend, but you just had the most hectic and exhausting week in a long time. All you think about is unwinding and spending some alone time. Your partner starts being pushy, making you feel guilty about your preference. Rather than being reactive, commenting on his behaviors, or yelling, choose to resist that impulsivity and remain calm yet assertive. Use the “I” statement, which looks like this:
“I feel ____ when ____. What I need is _____. “
“I feel overwhelmed after this tiring week at work, sad, and a bit frustrated when you keep pushing me. What I need is some time alone to regain my resources. After that, I’ll be happy to spend more time with you.”
You can always end with an open question like “What do you think?” so that you learn your partner’s thoughts on this.
Last but certainly not least, you can always practice your boundary-setting skill with a trusted friend or seek professional help. Our psychologists can help you understand your needs, learn tools to communicate them effectively and strengthen your assertive side in the safety of a therapeutic setting.
Contact us today to learn how to set healthy boundaries and live a happier life!