Have you found yourself saying “yes”, when you truly meant to say “no”? And then, days later, you are regretting you even said yes because you don’t have time to do whatever was asked of you or you simply just don’t want to do it.
If this sounds familiar it’s because this is more common than you probably realize. As children, we are raised to comply and do as our parents’ say, which means, we don’t learn a lot about healthy boundaries and why they’re important.
What are healthy boundaries?
According to PositivePsychology.com: “Healthy boundaries can serve to establish one’s identity. Specifically, healthy boundaries can help people define their individuality and can help people indicate what they will and will not hold themselves responsible for.”
When you have healthy boundaries and you are clear about them, life is simply better. You don’t end up saying yes, when you mean to say no and you don’t do things you don’t want to do, which can bring up stress and anger.
Setting boundaries is a big part of self-care, especially if you are parent. Having clear boundaries allows you to work better with your partner, to get along better with friends and family, to have a healthier work environment and to create space for you to recharge so that you can be a more patient parent.
When you have healthy boundaries you become happier, less angry, less stressed out and more understanding because you start recognizing what you limits are and you start doing the things you actually want to do. Therefore, you become a better parent and friend.
Hit play below to watch my TV segment on The Mother Side/Good Morning Washington on how to set healthy boundaries, and then keep on reading this post since I go into more details on how to figure out what are your own boundaries and how to stick to them.
Tip: The holidays are the perfect time to practice healthy boundaries since you will probably get asked to do a lot of things you don’t want to or don’t have the time to do. It’s also a great time to make setting healthy boundaries your goal for the upcoming year.
How to set your own healthy boundaries
In order to have healthy boundaries you need to know what these boundaries are; and they are different for every person. Which is why knowing what your own boundaries are is so important to be able to set healthy boundaries with friends and family.
You simply cannot set healthy boundaries if you don’t know yourself, what you want or what you don’t want, what you can and cannot do. The problem is we live such busy lives that, many times, we don’t take the time to truly honor and know ourselves. Therefore, we end up doings we don’t want to do and we don’t even realize it – we just automatically do them.
Sit down with paper and pen and write down what YOUR boundaries are, what you like, what you don’t like and where’s the limit for you. The easiest way to do this is to divide your boundaries list in categories, since your boundaries will be different for work, friends, family, etc.
This is the time to be honest with yourself, this list is your eyes only so write down everything that comes to mind. You can later decide which boundaries you want to enforce and which you don’t.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to tackle this in one sitting. You can have an ongoing list that you add things to since the more your practice boundaries, the clearer it will become with are YOUR OWN boundaries.
Pay attention to your feelings – they are the key!
When you start working on your boundaries, paying attention to your feeling is the most important part because your feelings tell you clearly when your boundaries are being crossed. The problem is that most of us ignore them.
So start paying attention to your feeling. The more you pay attention, the more clear it will be to see what makes you uncomfortable, resentful and unhappy. Notice when something upsets you or when you feel resentment towards someone else.
Usually we get a feeling when someone first asks us to do something or asks us something that doesn’t feel right, listen to that feeling. This is your time to say no and set a healthy boundary.
Other times we don’t pay attention to our feelings but we might feel resentful after we did something we were asked to do. The feeling of resentment or being upset is a sign that a boundary might have been crossed.
Ask yourself why this is upsetting, and make mental note of it so next time you’re facing a situation like this, you set a healthy boundaries and avoid getting yourself in that situation.
I personally believe in listening to our intuition, it guides us in the right direction if we listen to it and it helps us define healthy boundaries. Click here to listen to this podcast episode on how to listen to your intuition if you feel like it’s not clear to you yet.
Don’t blame others and be direct
People can’t respect your boundaries if you’re not clear about them. Be honest about who you are, what you like, what you want and don’t want to do. Being direct when setting boundaries doesn’t mean you need to explain yourself, it just means you need to give a clear answer and set clear limits.
Being direct also doesn’t mean you have to be rude or that you don’t consider about others. It just means that you know yourself and therefore you know what you can and cannot give of yourself and you communicate this clearly.
Here’s a common example of not being clear with your boundaries: You go to a party with your spouse and you’re upset because it’s getting late and you want to go home but your partner is having a good time and doesn’t even realize you want to leave.
Practicing healthy boundaries would be talking before going to the party about the time both people want to return home. One person states clear their boundaries so they can come to an agreement that works for both, instead of assuming the other person will simply know.
People don’t have to agree with your boundaries
This is probably one of the hardest part of sticking to practicing healthy boundaries because everyone’s boundaries are different. But different doesn’t make your boundaries wrong or right nor does it make someone else’s wrong or right.
Your boundaries are for your own emotional well-being, this means the only person that has to agree to them is YOU. This also means that if you want to say no, you don’t have to give a big explanation as to why you’re saying no. You are entitled to say no just because you don’t want to do something, especially if this something is going to cause resentment in you.
This is so important to remember if you’re a parent and others around you are telling you how to parent or giving you unsolicited advice. If you want more information and examples on how to deal with situations like these, click here to listen to this podcast episode on how to be a confident parent when others around you aren’t supportive.
Just say no – no explanation needed
You don’t have to give a big explanation as to why you’re saying no. You are entitled to say no just because you don’t want to do something, especially if this something is going to cause resentment in you. You don’t have to be rude about it though. As long as you are being respectful but stating clearly what you’re comfortable with, you don’t owe to anyone more than what you can give.
When you say no to something, that opens the door for others to step up and take charge of the situation. So don’t fall into the trap of believing that you have to solve every problem at the cost of your own well-being. This is slippery slope because it leads to a victim mentality.
Take charge of your life by being honest, with yourself first, on who are you.
Pause before you give an answer, even if it’s just for a few seconds, and ask yourself if you truly want to say yes.
Learning how to set boundaries is something most people learn as adults and it requires you to practice a lot of self-awareness. At first, it can be hard to set limits so start with small things, like saying no when you mean to. For example: before you answer a question, give it some thought and say no when you mean to say no or if your boundary was not to have a drink at a holiday party, be firm with this and don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
Or pick one way you are going to practice healthy boundaries – pick one boundary that’s really important for you, and make sure you stick to it. Once you have mastered that, you can move onto the next important boundary. Do this until it becomes your new norm.
Decide how you’re going to handle a situation when someone doesn’t respect your boundaries
The holidays, gathering and parties are filled with activities and friends and family being pushy at times. They might push your boundaries or try to talk you into something you don’t want to do, so make sure you know what to say or do when this happens.
For example, if you’re going to visit family members who push your buttons, then decide what type of conversations you should walk away from. “Why aren’t you married yet? When are you having kids? You should control your child.” Whatever conversation that, usually, doesn’t end well, you can walk away from before it happens.
If you know you will be with someone or in an uncomfortable situation, practice before you go, how you will respond. This will make it a lot easier for you to stick to your boundaries when the situation arises.
Having boundaries is not selfish
Being selfish means you don’t consider others. Practicing boundaries doesn’t mean you’re selfish, it means you know yourself so well you know where you can help others and where your limits lie (even if your limit is a constraint).
When your own bucket is filled, you have so much more to give of yourself – and this is what having healthy boundaries does. It helps you live a more joyful life, which in turn makes you a kinder, giving and more compassionate person.
You can state clear boundaries and still be compassionate and considerate of others. A great phrase to use is: “not at this time”.
Another great example is: “I need quiet time every day”. You are stating a boundary for your emotional well-being that might take away time you spend with someone else, but by doing so, you’re in a better mood, which helps put everyone around you in a better mood.
Communication is crucial in setting healthy boundaries
The key to any healthy type of relationship is communication. We simply cannot know what others need or want nor what we need or want if we don’t have open conversations about it.
Start practicing with your partner or someone close to you. Tell me openly and honestly how you feel, let them do the same and then come up with a solution that works for both.
The oxygen mask
Every time you board an airplane you are reminded that in case of an accident you need place an oxygen mask before you help others. This is what you are doing when you practice healthy boundaries.
If you’re a mom reading this, it’s even more important for you, because we give so much of ourselves for our children and family, but sometimes we do this at the cost of our own well-being. Make sure you are tending to your needs too and setting limits that help you stay balanced and happy.
This will create a better home environment and your interactions with your children and spouse will come from a place of love and not of resentment.
Boundaries are not set in stone
Boundaries is not something you decide it’s one way and stick to it until the end of your life. Boundaries are fluid, just as life is fluid and always changing. This is why knowing yourself and paying attention to your feeling is so important. It’s what will help you define your boundaries every time.
And boundaries are not right or wrong, they are based on your own values, needs and on who you are – and there is nothing wrong with you are.
Love who you are, accept who you are, embrace who you are and this will led to you being able to set healthier boundaries.
Healthy boundaries create a more joyful life
I am one of those people who doesn’t like to let others down and who says yes to everything. This led me to become such a flaky person because I just couldn’t do it all and I started dropping the ball on things. I was feeling overwhelmed and stressed out a big part of the time.
This is when I realized things had to change. I started being more honest with myself, first, about what I am capable of doing and what I’m not. Then I slowly starting being more vocal about this. I was surprised to find out that people were actually understanding and appreciated my honesty. It was less “scary” than I thought it would be, and it improved both my personal and professional relationships because I was now committing to things I could actually follow through on.
When you have healthy boundaries it’s also easier for you to understand others and be compassionate. Having healthy boundaries doesn’t mean I never help other, in fact, I love helping people and big part of what I do revolves around this but now I make sure I only commit to thing I can do and want to do – for the most part.
If you’re struggling to figure out what healthy boundaries look like in practice, here are 10 ways to establish healthy boundaries.
Remember, when you are happy and fulfilled, this trickles down to everything in your life, and boundaries helps us to do that – to live happier, more fulfilling and successful lives.