5 Guidelines You Need to Set Healthy Boundaries
Boundaries can be the difference between feeling empowered or frustrated in relationships.
Giving yourself permission to have them is the first step in taking better care of yourself.
What are boundaries?
Boundaries are the limits that you set for yourself. They are not about changing other people's behavior. That's why they're so challenging. Boundaries are about you.
Setting limits within yourself is where you have the most power. This means choosing what you participate in and when to remove yourself.
If people pleasing or not being assertive stops you from setting boundaries, keep reading.
Approval is intoxicating
Saying yes translates to being instantly likable. Friends and family love it and you feel indispensable.
That's why helping others is kind of intoxicating... until it's no longer a choice. At some point you want your time back but can't do it.
So how do you start?
Here are 5 guidelines you need for setting boundaries. These principles address what gets in your way and what to do instead.
1. Let go of the guilt
Guilt makes you "should yourself" into doing what you don't want to do. Instead, you say yes but inside you're getting tired of always being available.
Here are some examples:
- Driving the neighbors' kids even though it makes you late.
- Doing all the housework because it's easier than asking for help.
- Saying yes to a family trip camping when you'd rather go to Hawaii.
- Letting other choose to avoid problems.
- Lending friends money when you'd rather not.
- Doing favors when you really don't have the time.
Underneath the guilt is a nagging thought that you don't have a choice. But you do! You just have to exercise it. Don't assume others will react negatively.
If you constantly spend your energy on others, what are you going to have left?
2. Saying no gives you time back
I write a lot about saying no because that's a simple, powerful starting point of change.
I can't say no because people count on me. Isn't that selfish?
In moderation saying no is one of the most empowering acts of self care that you can do. It might be uncomfortable at first but the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
- Saying no means getting your time back.
- Saying no decreases overwhelm.
- Saying no decreases you anger and resentment.
- Saying no sets a great example for having mutually beneficial relationships.
Saying no gives you a chance to reboot. When you constantly give, it feels draining. This creates an underlying resentment in relationships that linger.
3 Know what you want (and ask for it)
You can't set boundaries until you know what you want. Every time you get resentful, that's your clue. The "no" needs to be honored.
Here's a challenge. Think of 5 things that you have always wanted but never let yourself have. You may discover a neglected hobby, a relationship that needs to change, or obligations you'd like to stop.
You have a right to choose how to spend your time. Boundaries show where you put your time and energy. You choose what to participate in and when to opt out. When this happens, resentments decrease because you are giving out of choice not obligation.
4. Let others be their own keeper
Boundaries let other people take care of themselves. When you stop doing for others, you are kindly giving back to them responsibility for their own life. Family and friend's behavior is no longer yours to fix.
Besides, did you ever actually succeed in fixing them?
You might worry that by letting go, everything will crash. But, the longer you hold on, the more stressed out you get. Family and friends may resent your "helping" and see it as control.
5. Self-care is how boundaries work
You aren't meant to carry the weight of everyone else's problems. Setting boundaries means being honest about what you can and can't do. Ask for help if you're overwhelmed. Find ways to add some fun into your life.
Putting yourself first is what setting healthy boundaries is all about. It doesn't mean you won't help out on occasion but no longer at your own expense.
On a personal note
I've learned a lot about setting boundaries in the last twenty years. The biggest lesson was that boundaries were really about my taking care of myself verse what you were doing to me.
Being able to say "ouch" keeps your relationship honest. Telling my truth keeps me in the moment and helps me to avoid resentment. Otherwise, why spend all this effort soul-searching to change our behavior?
When you let yourself set healthy boundaries you are free! Free to say what you want and let go of what you don't. That's my definition of freedom!
What do you think your starting point is with setting boundaries? Leave a comment below!