How To Set Healthy Boundaries
By Kacie Mitterando. LMSW
“Daring to set boundaries is having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” –Brene Brown
This week I read someone describe boundaries as the “new trend” in mental health. I like this mental health trend because boundaries are important, and setting them may even be the key adjustment we need to resolve feeling drained and spread too thin.
At the root of it, boundaries are the way in which we show others what we will accept and what will not accept in our relationships with them. For a multitude of reasons such as guilt or childhood trauma, we may not set these boundaries with those closest to us and are often left feeling used, drained and resentful towards people (or careers) we normally care deeply about. Boundaries are an example of self-love and setting them allows you to focus on protecting yourself and re-building your inner peace.
What are some signs you might need to set boundaries?
- You’re having feelings of overwhelm several, or most, days of the week
- When someone asks you for help with something you feel resentful towards them
- You daydream about dropping your career or responsibilities and disappearing for a bit of time
- You’re finding that time to yourself is limited as most of your time is spent with those around you
- You initially think that you’re worried about hurting someone by being open and honest with your needs, however, you realize that you’re actually worried about their angry response
Understanding that it may be time for your to set boundaries in your life is step one, however, actually setting the boundaries with those around you can be difficult. While I recommend working alongside a therapist throughout the boundary-setting process, below are a few tips to help get you started and validate the importance of your needs.
1. Become clear on what your boundaries are:
Take a mental inventory of what is important to you – Is it the way you are spoken to? Do you feel as though your physical needs and personal space are being violated? Are those around you shutting down your inner thoughts?
2. Saying “no:”
I know this one always seems much easier said than done, however, sometimes we need to go back to the basics to find true peace. Sarri Gilman, an author and psychotherapist discusses a skill we all embody that helps us say no much easier – she calls it our inner sense of wisdom. This wisdom is often expressed through a tiny voice inside our head that either tells us “yes” or “no” to a task, event or opportunity that comes up. Practice tuning in to this inner wisdom to assist you in making decisions that are fulfilling and honoring your true needs.
3. Expect to disappoint:
When setting boundaries with those around you, your loved one may initially become angry and upset with you. This can often cause you to want to pull back on the boundary and not honor your need, however, this reaction often proves that the boundary was necessary. Remind yourself that if you did not set this boundary, bitterness and resentment would likely have spread throughout the relationship over time and could have caused a large falling out. Even if someone is initially upset, those who respect your boundaries will end up becoming some of your most fulfilling relationships.
Sometimes boundaries my seem cold and distant, or like you’re trying to escape someone (or that someone is trying to escape you). Elizabeth Earnshaw stated “when people set boundaries with you, it’s their attempt to continue the relationship with you. It’s not an attempt to hurt you.” Ultimately, boundaries are our way of strengthening our relationships with those around us by deepening the connection with ourselves. By setting a boundary with the people you love the most you’re able to maintain, or begin, a healthy and strong connection with them.
No one becomes a master at setting boundaries immediately. It is a self-care practice that can take years to master. Know that you are worthy of honoring your innermost needs and fostering a fulfilling life of love and compassion with those around you.