‘Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others’ ~ Brene Brown
Clear, healthy boundaries are essential to our health and wellbeing. Without strong boundaries, you’re likely to become overwhelmed and exhausted.
You’ll end up taking responsibility for other people’s feelings and problems, and eventually this could lead to you being taken advantage of, leaving you feeling frustrated and resentful. This isn’t good for your mental or physical health, so by setting strong boundaries, you’ll be taking care of your emotional and physical needs.
Why does it feel so difficult to set boundaries?
You might have been conditioned from a young age to always put others wishes before our own, and that to do anything else is selfish. Maybe you’ve seen one of your parents constantly putting themselves last in order to please others, or you’ve been criticised or judged for saying ‘no’ to something.
If expectations put on you by other people leave you feeling guilty when you don’t live up to them, you might feel compelled to overcompensate by saying yes to things that you really don’t want to do. Sometimes a lack of confidence or a fear of being disliked can cause a pattern of people-pleasing behaviour.
Why is it important to set boundaries?
With healthy boundaries in place you can:
- Feel safer by being clear what’s acceptable to you and what isn’t.
- Demonstrate to others that you respect yourself and expect the same from them
- Maintain healthy, balanced relationships
- Make decisions that support and serve you
- Live in alignment with your values without feeling that you always over-compromise
- Make choices that are best for your health and wellbeing
- Say ‘no’ without guilt or fear of judgement
- Feel more in control of what happens in your life
- Model positive boundary-setting behaviour to your children or your peers
- Recognise your needs and get them met
- Build your self-esteem, confidence and assertiveness
- Feel less anger and frustration as people will learn to respect your boundaries
How can you set boundaries?
As Brene Brown says in her book Rising Strong, boundaries are ‘simply our lists of what’s okay and what’s not okay’.
First, you can think about these three statements that will help you to be clear on your boundaries:
I do not accept … (eg people criticising me in front of others, being manipulated or pressured, feeling unsafe)
It’s okay to ask for … (eg more time to make a decision, time alone, help and support)
I’m allowed to … (eg say ‘no’, change my mind)
This will help you to create your list of what’s okay and what’s not okay.
Remind yourself of these boundaries and give yourself permission to practice them. When you are consistent in upholding your boundaries, other people will start to learn what your boundaries are too, and they will know what to expect.
It takes practice to establish a new habit or pattern of behaviour, so when you’re struggling to stick to your boundaries, check in and ask yourself: “Am I okay with this?”
If not, then give yourself permission to uphold your boundary without guilt or shame.
Sometimes it’s okay to be flexible with your boundaries, unusual circumstances might mean you need to compromise more than we would normally.
But when you do, be clear that there’s a reason for it this time.
If you’re finding it hard to create clear boundaries or find it hard to stick to your boundaries, then I may be able to help. Get in touchto arrange a free discovery call to see if life coaching might be for you.