Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you feel a complete lack of personal space? In a relationship where you can’t get a moment to yourself? In a state of frustration because you feel completely taken advantage of?
While it might be tempting to immediately blame the other for these feelings, it might be beneficial to examine yourself as well and ask, “Did I fail to set healthy boundaries in order to respect both my personal space and theirs?”
What are healthy boundaries?
A healthy boundary can have varying definitions based on the individual’s lifestyle and level of comfortability. Generally speaking, however, it can be defined as the space where you end and the other begins; it is the line you don’t allow others to cross out of respect for your emotional and psychological health. In order to remain firmly rooted in your own identity and not become lost in another, one must set healthy boundaries.
Why is it important to create boundaries?
The term ‘boundary’ can sound isolating, like a brick wall around a property line. Setting personal boundaries doesn’t require bricks and mortar, and can therefore be much more difficult to communicate to others since personal boundaries are invisible. Unless you communicate them through your words and actions, other people won’t know where those boundary lines lie.
Essentially, where your boundaries lie reflect self-respect, independence and personal values. For example, your limits of how much personal information you share at work might look different from your coworkers, but just because they feel more comfortable sharing doesn’t mean you should feel pressured to share the same amount.
You can set hard and fast or loose and flexible boundaries around many different areas of your life, including:
- Physical comfortability
- Financial situations
- Personal information, like a medical diagnosis or a difficult familial situation
- Emotional thoughts and feelings
- Personal opinions, such as where you stand politically or religiously
- Availability, like when you choose to answer the phone or respond to emails
Not only will setting these boundaries give you the space you need, they can also:
- Improve self-esteem and independence
- Conserve emotional energy
- Provide peace and a clearer sense of your beliefs and values
- Give you more time and energy to invest in your joys, hobbies, leisures, etc.
- Increase confidence in ensuring your needs are met
How to create healthy boundaries
So now that you understand why it’s important to set healthy boundaries, let’s take a look at how it’s done.
1. Say no
One of the surest ways to overwhelm yourself is by saying yes to everything — staying late at work, running the carpool for the kids, throwing the baby shower at your house, organizing the office get-together, being constantly available for a needy friend/relative. While these things might be good individually, when you repeatedly agree to things, you will find yourself with too much on your plate, no time for yourself and an impending sense of burnout.
To keep yourself accountable and within the bounds of what you can handle, it’s imperative to learn to say no. Saying no doesn’t mean you’re selfish and it should never make you feel guilty. Saying no shows that you not only respect and admit to your limitations, but that you respect the task at hand enough to realize you shouldn’t take on anything else. Plus, it gives you the freedom to select what you devote your energy and time towards.
2. Use “I” statements to be assertive
You can take responsibility for your needs by using “I” statements. This helps to increase independence and self-esteem, in that no guilt is present in saying, “This is what I need,” but it also helps to prevent making the other person feel bad.
For example, saying, “I feel overwhelmed/frustrated/angry when spoken to like that,” helps you take responsibility for your emotions while also letting the other know that that’s not an effective way of communicating with you.
3. Don’t ignore the red flags
There are some behaviors that, when encouraged, can infringe more and more on your boundaries. People who need to be in constant communication with you, who dominate the conversation in a monologue or rant, who have little filter in regards to personal drama/events or who let you in on their entire personal history in the hopes of speeding up the depth of relationship might have poor boundaries themselves.
Individuals who don’t have examples of good boundaries won’t know how to set them on their own. For your own mental health, it’s important to not only set these boundaries for yourself, but to consider limiting your time spent with individuals who will take advantage of your time, energy and peace of mind.
4. Limit availability
Technology, with all its benefits, has also infringed on boundaries in that everyone has the ability to get ahold of you at all times, if you let them. That being said, we all have the responsibility to acknowledge this truth and proceed accordingly, setting boundaries such as:
- “I won’t answer calls from work after 5pm on a work day about work-related materials.”
- “I won’t forward work emails to my personal cell phone.”
- “I will consider the hour of the day before calling so-and-so.”
- “I’ll make sure I’m in a good state of mind before impulsively responding to this message.”
Get further assistance
Setting boundaries for the first time can be difficult, so if you find yourself not knowing where to begin or struggling to maintain them, consider speaking with Pyramid Online Counseling today for assistance. Call anytime at 833-525-3077.