Our boundaries help us define ourselves as individuals. By clearly asserting our limits, we teach others about our limits, whether they are physical, emotional, social, mental and/or spiritual. Having clear boundaries allows us to feel respected as an individual, while being engaged in interpersonal relationships with other people. We define and develop a sense of our personal limits through our experiences. They often become clearer to us during negative experiences where we feel uncomfortable or when someone takes advantage of us. It helps us understand where we need to draw the line in order to feel respected and valued in our interpersonal relationships.
Strategies for setting boundaries
First, reflect on and identify the boundaries you may already have and the ones you are lacking. Then communicate with others what you need. You are allowed to say a firm “No” for something you don’t like or do not want to do. You are not obligated to provide a reason or explanation for your response. You are asking for others to respect your wish without conflict. Focus the expectations of your boundary setting on yourself (Ex: “I need some time alone to focus on my personal needs”, instead of blaming or attacking the other person). Finally, when we set clear boundaries, there must also be clear consequences if it is not respected. If this rule is important to you, explain why it is important. You must also be ready to follow through with this rule and its consequences if the other person breaks them.
If you are experiencing a conflict with another person, and you become uncomfortable or feel disrespected clearly state: “I feel you are not respecting me right now, and I need to take a break for a few minutes. I would ask that you give me my time and space alone, and we can resume our conversation later when we are both calmer.”
Healthy boundaries in relationships
When boundaries are not respected in relationships, it can lead to a toxic and dysfunctional connection where control, manipulation, and dominance are present. You may feel like others are taking advantage of you or manipulate you for their personal gain. You may notice a pattern of things going really well for a short period of time, and suddenly things turn for the worst. Perhaps your relationship is often “on/off”, and the other person constantly wants to come back into your life.
Remember that to set and follow healthy personal boundaries is taking responsibility for our own actions and emotions, and not taking the responsibility for someone else’s actions and emotions. If you feel it important to make sacrifices for someone you care about, it must be because you want to, not because you feel obligated or because you fear the consequences of not doing it (Mark Manson).
1. Focus on your self-awareness – listen to your emotional needs
2. Take action on the things you want to change about yourself
3. Learn to trust and respect yourself
4. Respect other people’s boundaries and opinions
5. Create an attitude of personal responsibility – you are not responsible for others
6. Clearly assert yourself – remember that it’s ok to say NO!
Other good resources on boundaries:
The Guide to Strong Relationship Boundaries (by Mark Manson)
Why Personal Boundaries are Important and How to Set Them (PsychCentral)
How to Set Healthy Boundaries (PositivePsychology.com)
How to Set Boundaries with Toxic People (PsychCentral)
Boundaries (book by Henry Cloud & John Townsend)
Unfuck your boundaries (book by Faith Harper)
Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A guide to reclaiming yourself (book by Nedra Glover Tawwab)