Are you constantly dissatisfied with how people treat you? Are you tired of being the people-pleaser in every conversation? Are you struggling to meet the burden of people’s expectations of who you should be?
If yes, here’s great news – you have a say in how people treat you. They will treat you the way you ALLOW them to treat you.
So, if you are the quintessential nice person who refuses to voice how they should be treated, here’s a wake-up call for you. When you aren’t assertive about how you should be treated, you bear the brunt of people’s anger or frustration. You are forced to put yourself on the line to fulfill requests you never wanted to in the first place. To avoid conflict, you maladaptively accept yourself as a victim, which hampers your sense of self and allows people to walk over you.
But all this changes the moment you realize that it’s you who can flip this scenario.
Yes! By learning how to set healthy boundaries, you can effectively communicate your needs, values, and opinions to people. It allows you to develop your sense of self by understanding and sharing your priorities with those around you.
However, if you are like the majority of us, you’d know that learning how to set and sustain healthy boundaries is a mammoth task. It gets even more difficult if you are a woman or come from a culture that values self-sacrifice and collectivism above all else.
So, learning how to create boundaries is tough, but it’s possible with a little determination and hard work. To help you get started, we have compiled a complete crash course on how to set healthy boundaries and sustain them effectively. Let’s dive in.
But first, What Is A Boundary?
Boundaries are a set of standards and guidelines that are used to enforce distance from something or someone. However, they can also help you connect and engage with people and priorities that are important to you.
Simply put, boundaries are a way to communicate how you want to be treated. They can be your protective gear to ensure emotional and physical stability. The goal is to protect your mental health and avoid any issues like codependence or miscommunication.
The concept of learning how to set healthy boundaries with people to ensure a healthy life has been around for decades. However, it has made quite a resurgence in this digital age.
Well, it isn’t a surprise after all.
We live in a world where our digital landscape has widened beyond horizons, yet our physical boundaries have shrunk tremendously. Knowing how to create boundaries has never been as difficult or important as it is today, and we are not just talking about professional life.
Digital interventions have meant that today, we are supposed to be available for work, friends, family, and possibly anything else that requires our attention. The old-age boundaries that once protected and nourished us have been destroyed by technology. And so, this is where we redefine what boundaries mean to all of us individually and stick to them.
So, How Do You Know When To Set Boundaries?
Now that we have figured out what boundaries actually mean, it’s time to understand when you should use them.
Like, really, how do you realize that it’s time to enforce boundaries?
For instance, if a co-worker puts a hand on your back and makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s your body’s idea of communicating with you a problem. Or if you feel exhausted and drained after a conversation with someone, that’s a sign of the person overstepping.
Pay more attention to your thoughts and behaviors with people in different settings. This self-awareness will help you understand where to draw a line.
How To Establish Healthy Boundaries With People?
Most of us find it hard to establish boundaries. This is because boundaries are triggering. A healthy boundary might represent different things to different people, but it universally means re-examining and reflecting on toxic behaviors and situations that have left a negative impact on our minds.
For instance, a people-pleasing person might have had a pretty lonely childhood. Therefore, the trauma means that they refuse to do anything to jeopardize the relationships in their life remotely.
However, the good news is that no matter how deeply engraved in your mind these thoughts and behaviors are, they can be replaced with healthier ones. To help you get started, here are some effective tips on how to create healthy boundaries.
1. Determine your priorities in life.
The best way to learn how to set healthy boundaries in life is to understand your priorities. Think of the one or two most important things you want from your personal and professional life.
These can be simple, like wanting to earn money, spending time with friends and family, etc.
Now, once you have these priorities list ready, distinguish them into two parts – hard and soft boundaries.
Hard boundaries are non-negotiable. In this section, you can add unacceptable things to your situation. In soft boundaries, add your aspirations. For instance, having a healthy work-life balance is an aspiration with multiple people and factors playing their roles. Therefore, progress on this front is slow and gradual.
Once you define your hard and soft boundaries, you will be confident enough to enforce guidelines in your personal and professional life about things that matter to you the most.
2. Clarify your needs.
Another important step in how to set healthy boundaries with people is to clarify your needs. Be clear with what you want and communicate it directly to the required people.
When you first meet new people, you might find that a lot of them try to assess or push your boundaries. First impressions are important; therefore, being upfront about what you want and assertive about it is essential.
If you struggle with communicating your needs or worry about being rude or unpleasant, try writing your boundaries and reciting them aloud. This will help you come up with the right words and ensure that you don’t go way off the topic in the actual conversation.
3. Start slow.
If you are like most people, you probably don’t have a lot of boundaries in your life right now. Therefore, enforcing a lot of them might make you feel overwhelmed and anxious.
So, an effective tip on how to establish boundaries is to build them slowly.
Start with soft boundaries or practice one hard boundary in the beginning. Starting in a slow place allows you to stay in control. It gives you time to reflect on where you are heading and assess whether it suits you.
4. Try to be consistent.
Boundaries are not rigid. They are fluid in nature and action. Therefore, you might have to revisit your boundaries time and again to reassess their value in your life. Similarly, you might need to remind the people around you about your boundaries.
Phew! It’s a whole process, you see. And the best tip on how to set and sustain boundaries is to just try being consistent. Consistency will ensure conformity and help people understand the lines you have established.
5. Get support or help.
Learning how to create boundaries is tough. But it’s a whole different ball game when you are dealing with traumatic life situations, mental health issues, etc. Therefore, getting the right help and support is important.
Therefore, if you are struggling to learn how to set emotional boundaries or if someone is making it difficult for you by constantly crossing them, it’s crucial to seek help.
How Do You Differentiate Between Healthy And Unhealthy Boundaries?
To be honest, you might never realize whether your boundaries are porous or rigid. Being too porous means you might allow people to walk all over them easily. Being too rigid means you might never let yourself be truly open and vulnerable with people.
The sweet spot of a healthy boundary that is flexible and clear is difficult to attain. Therefore, it’s mostly a trial-and-error approach.
So, how do you differentiate between healthy and unhealthy boundaries?
Well, here are three characteristics that might be great starting points:
- Your boundaries should not be a mask for your controlling behaviors.
- Your boundaries exist to help you navigate tricky situations, but they aren’t a tool to avoid altercation or conflict entirely.
- You should not use your boundaries to boss around people.
Pro tip: The definition of unhealthy and healthy changes in different cultures and families. For instance, someone who comes from a family-loving collectivist culture might find it unhealthy to limit time with their family. However, someone from an individualistic culture might regard it as healthy.
Ultimately, learning how to set healthy boundaries is all about valuing your physical and mental needs. So, it’s entirely up to you to outline your boundaries.
While setting boundaries might initially lead to a lot of discomfort, know that it’s all part of the process. The discomfort will slowly dissipate, and life will gradually become more aligned with your priorities.
We hope this post on how to create boundaries will help you get started in the right direction.
Another essential step in creating healthy boundaries is learning to say no. It’s genuinely a superpower. To learn more about it, click here.
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