The word boundaries can be quite loaded. It may bring up feelings like fear or intimidation, and that’s okay. The beauty of building personal boundaries is that they can help you live in better alignment with your priorities and values. By advocating for needs, you’re able to clearly define and navigate how you want to show up in all of your relationships. Sure, they can be uncomfortable to put into place and maintain at times, but they’ll ultimately benefit you and everyone around you.
So, if you’re down to get started, let’s work on knowing when and how to set healthy boundaries in your life.
Hey, people-pleasers, here are signs you may need to set some boundaries.
- You don’t feel like you have a work/life balance. Not knowing when work ends and your personal life begins is a great indicator that you may need to implement a boundary. You may be feeling completely burned out with little time or energy to invest in the things that you enjoy. Would it be beneficial to turn off email notifications outside of work hours? How about communicating that you are overwhelmed and can’t take on that extra project right now?
- You find yourself resenting people in your life. When we don’t set or maintain our boundaries, it can start to feel like people are taking advantage of us. What you allow will continue, so it’s important to make the decision about how you would like to be treated and openly communicate that to others.
- You describe yourself as a people pleaser. Maybe the thought of letting others down makes you anxious, or you feel responsible for the happiness of others, or just agree with others to keep the peace. Although these people pleasing boundary violations may feel good in the moment or help you temporarily avoid conflict, eventually it can wear down the relationship because your needs aren’t being recognized. It’s so important to honor who you are rather than trying to be the version of yourself others want you to be.
- Self-care is the last thing on your to-do list. If you can’t remember the last time you said “no” to someone, but can think of several examples of times you said “yes” when you were already overwhelmed, it may be time to reevaluate your priorities. What are ways you can put yourself first? Remember self-care isn’t selfish, it’s necessary.
Okay, but what are my boundaries?
- Define your values. Boundaries are often in alignment with your values. Take a moment to journal and reflect on your values.
- Check in with your emotions. Take time to notice how you feel after certain interactions to determine what feels good for you and what isn’t working. Be honest with yourself. Don’t say “I feel good” when the reality is “I feel burned out.”
- Express your needs up front and follow through. If you ask your partner or kids to do a chore, actually allow them to complete that task instead of just doing it yourself.
- Pause before committing. Take as much time as you need to check in with yourself before automatically responding to a request. Your impulse may be to take it all on, but it’s best for everyone if you get clear on your personal limits first.
Now, how do I communicate these with others?
- Here’s what you say. You can be direct and honest and simply say no. You can share how you’re feeling, respond that you have plans (*which you do, it’s taking care of you) when a request comes up, etc. You can say anything you want or need to honor your own boundaries. If you’re still struggling to come up with the right words to use, check out this article on having difficult conversations for more tools and techniques.
- You don’t need to over-explain yourself. Let’s role play for a moment. You’re sitting at home on a Saturday afternoon, cozying up with a cup of tea and a book, when a friend reaches out asking if you want to meet up for happy hour. You’re in need of some down time and your mind instinctively screams, “Nope! I don’t want to go.” However, you are scared to hurt her feelings and consider putting her needs before your own. Guess what? Your needs are just as valid as hers and you owe it to yourself to honor them. A simple, “can’t tonight – thanks for the invite!” is all the explanation you need.
Here are tools to help you out
Want to start setting small goals to achieve the bigger goal of better boundaries? Check out the Goals Tool and add in your challenge steps to get you where you want to be.
Still struggling to break out of the unhelpful thinking traps you find yourself in with your relationships? Don’t forget the Traps and Reframe Tools to dig deeper into these thoughts and how you can reframe them into something that is more reflective of the actual situation.
Setting boundaries and putting them into practice may seem daunting, but they’re essential in nurturing healthy relationships with yourself and those around you. Start by taking one small step we’ve discussed today and share in our Goals Community. We’re here to support you along the way.
By Ana Cudeck, Sanvello Virtual Mental Health Coach
Life can present a spectrum of opportunities, challenges, and everything in between. Ana believes that we all have an internal strength that drives and motivates us – we just need to dig into what that is and what it looks like for us as individuals. She is here and honored to help navigate that path. When she’s not seeing clients, Ana enjoys sneaking away in her travel trailer for adventures around Oregon with her rescue dog and her best friend, who she also happens to be married to.
By Gabrielle Nelson, Sanvello Virtual Mental Health Coach
As a mental health coach, Gabby believes in finding magic in the mundane and empowerment in the process. She knows that our members have everything within themselves to create their best life and all it takes is one small step. When she’s not seeing clients, Gabby loves spending time with her boyfriend, dog, and four cats. She enjoys weight lifting, being in nature, tarot cards, and playing bar trivia games.