Boundaries define the limits of acceptable behaviour and are critical for our well-being. However, setting boundaries can feel selfish or difficult at times. Healthy boundaries allow us to tap into our self-respect and dignity, even when establishing them is not always easy. In this blog, we’ll explore why healthy boundaries matter, signs you need to set better boundaries and how to put boundaries in place.
Why Healthy Boundaries Matter
Establishing healthy boundaries is critical for preserving your self-respect and dignity, but also for lowering stress and social anxiety. When you fail to set appropriate boundaries, you send the signal that you don’t value your needs, time or emotional wellbeing. In essence, you teach others that it’s permissible to mistreat, take advantage of, criticise or otherwise hurt you. This gradual erosion of self-worth gnaws away at your ability to nurture positive relationships and protect against burnout.
Conversely, articulating clear boundaries demonstrates to yourself and others what behaviours you consider acceptable or unacceptable within any given relationship. It allows you to say “no” when your energy is depleted and communicate what crosses the line for you personally. These boundaries come from a place of knowing your core values, priorities and dealbreakers – a deeper self-knowledge that builds confidence.
Of course, establishing boundaries isn’t always easy and requires concerted practice. You may face resistance or attempts to guilt trip you from others in your life. But you can learn to hold firm in your convictions while expecting others to respect your right to dignity and care. And in the process, you teach the people in your life how you expect to be treated.
Signs You Need to Set Better Boundaries
Do you find yourself repeatedly saying “yes” when you actually want to say “no”? That’s often the first clue that your boundaries need some work. Without realising it, you may routinely overcommit to requests because you have difficulty declining others or fear conflict and disapproval. Likewise, you may find yourself keeping quiet when someone says or does something that upsets you rather than speaking up.
A consequence of lacking boundaries is that you may develop resentment building towards certain people or obligations in your life. If you feel bitter that loved ones constantly demand your time and energy without concern for your limits, boundary issues may be at play.
Extreme fatigue and burnout can also indicate that you aren’t protecting your personal bandwidth through healthy boundaries. When you chronically overextend yourself, physical and emotional resources inevitably deplete. Continuous difficulty uttering the word “no” perpetuates this cycle of exhaustion.
You may also want to notice how you respond when others criticise or attempt to control you. If you have weak boundaries, you may internalise mistreatment or seek to avoid rocking the boat at all costs, even at the detriment of your own happiness or peace. Passive acceptance of disrespect from those around you can suggest an absence of self-worth.
How to Set Healthy Boundaries
The first step is increasing self-awareness. Knowing your core values, priorities, needs and dealbreakers will help you communicate to others more effectively. Getting clarity on who you are makes it easier to then communicate your boundaries to others. Counselling can help you understand yourself better and how this relates to your boundaries.
When it comes to articulating those boundaries, use assertive communication anchored in “I” statements rather than blame language. For example, you might say “I need an hour to decompress on my own after work before talking” or “I can’t lend you money right now.” This ensures that your communication is direct, simple and non-defensive.
Remember, boundaries are flexible. You’re not conveying rigid ultimatums, so there may be times you choose to make exceptions or compromises. But it’s important to first establish baseline expectations to your friends, family or colleagues so when you do stretch your limits, it’s a conscious choice rather than feeling like you’re being pressured.
It can be overwhelming if you’re used to saying yes to everything to suddenly feel like you’re being negative and difficult. So, don’t try to establish a host of new boundaries overnight – start with one or two manageable changes to give yourself an achievable goal. It can help to set those boundaries with yourself first, such as switching off your phone an hour before bed each night or committing to only answering work emails during your office hours.
Get Help with Setting Boundaries
When you make space for self-care, you gift yourself the ability to revaluate your connections. So don’t shrink from healthy boundaries for fear of rocking the boat with the people in your life. While it can be challenging at first, establishing clear boundaries is important for your mental health and developing relationships that are built on mutual respect.
Working with a therapist can help you uncover the cause of your boundary issues and work through them to develop healthier relationships with those around you. Get in touch with us to book an appointment.
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