We know that building healthy boundaries is a crucial ingredient of a happy and fulfilling life.
But . . .
Are there days when you feel as if you are here in this world to only satisfy others’ needs, while shoving yours away? Do you suffer physically, mentally and emotionally because of this? I know I have.
It is a sign that you need to build or strengthen your boundaries to protect your feelings, happiness and overall mental state. And you will need something that will alert you when the limits you’ve set are being violated.
This something—a gauge—will involve certain emotions. When you feel uncomfortable, distressed, resentful—that’s when you need to reassess the situation before you react.
One way to do this is to rate these feelings on a scale of 1 to 5. Based on the severity—look at what’s triggering them and how you can overcome them.
So next time someone tries to be pushy with you, treat you badly or pressurize you into doing something you don’t want to, it is time to enforce your boundaries. Recognize that emotional red flag and take action.
But how do you create or reinforce your boundaries?
Let’s look at the basics for building healthy boundaries
As I mentioned earlier, to be the best “you”—to be happy—to be healthy—you have to set boundaries. This means being clear about your limits. This is necessary to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed by the demands and expectations of other people.
If you don’t set boundaries, you become overburdened, stressed and resentful—so it is entirely up to you to create and maintain your limits. You are the only one responsible for your happiness and well-being and nobody else is going to do it for you.
We all find it tough in varying degrees to say “No”. What we don’t realize is how it is affecting us. So, now is the time to to re-calibrate your boundaries.
7 steps to building healthy boundaries
Here is a step-by-step guide for building healthy boundaries.
1. Know and assess your limits
Self-awareness is the key to creating and maintaining your limits. Know your emotional, mental, and physical limits.
Boundaries are a reflection of your relationship with yourself. Weak boundaries tell the world that you don’t care about letting go of your time and happiness. Strong boundaries signal your self-respect and values.
As a first step, think about this:
- what makes you feel uncomfortable?
- what stresses you?
- what feels good?
- What is acceptable to you?
- What are your limits?
- What makes you feel depleted?
Make the time to sit down and work out these values.
2. Know how to interpret your feelings
In the process of evaluating your limits, you probably felt a range of emotions. Focus on two of these: resentment and discomfort. When you feel that someone is taking advantage of you, or not appreciating you or even exploiting you—it is a warning sign that they are violating your boundaries. It is time to reassert your boundaries and say NO.
3. Give yourself permission to enforce your boundaries
Give yourself permission to say NO. You must do it for your self-respect to maintain your boundaries and refuse unwelcome requests. No need to feel guilty or have self-doubts over this. When you have clear boundaries and stick to them, you are NOT being selfish. When you put yourself first, you ensure that you have the energy to do things you want to do and to be there for people when you want to be. It’s a form of self-care.
4. Know your non-negotiables
What do you need to be healthy and happy? It can be your exercise routine—a daily walk, gym session, yoga practice . . . or other things you do. Make it clear that these are non-negotiable elements in your daily schedule. For example, if you are being talked into hosting a family party and it cuts into your non-negotiables, let them know that you can’t—but maybe you can contribute with food and beverages. If an office colleague asks for help, feel free to say no if you can’t. Don’t want to go to that musical with a friend because you don’t like them, fine. Say so. Can’t work late today? Say so!
It is perfectly fine to be clear and direct about your boundaries. And feelings. This way, there’s no scope for guilt, doubt or leverage.
5. Be direct
Perhaps the most important step while setting and reinforcing boundaries is being clear. When you are clear, there is no need to fall back on excuses or cook up stories. Just state what you have to say and leave it at that. Be polite and kind about it. Point is, say no and maintain your boundaries.
6. Be consistent
This step is important. Once you set boundaries, you must maintain them consistently. Don’t say one thing and do another. People will test your boundaries—after all, it is human nature. So, follow through on what you say.
7. Write your script
To make it easier on yourself, especially if you find it hard to come up with the right response when someone is pushing your boundaries, here’s a tip. Write your script. Make a bunch of ready made answers that you can use when a simple No won’t do.
- No, I can’t on that day
- I’m already committed
- I’m not available
- I’m afraid I’m not interested
Be polite but firm. No need to explain yourself. This way you’ll build the confidence to enforce your boundaries.
You have the right to have healthy boundaries, so don’t feel guilty. Guilt is simply a consequence of the social conditioning to be “unselfish”. If someone does try to make you feel guilty, just recognize that behavior for what it is. It is called bullying. Building healthy boundaries and maintaining them reduces your stress levels and improves your relationships.
What is your opinion on building healthy boundaries?
Are you a people-pleaser?