Setting boundaries can seem intimidating and uncomfortable. But today, right now, I’d invite you to reframe how you think about boundaries.
Instead of fearing boundaries, let’s think of boundaries as tools. They’re tools we can use that will help us feel more secure in our healthy relationships and more at ease with ourselves.
Boundaries can lead to a sense of freedom!
Here are three ways to set boundaries in any relationship:
- Check in with yourself.
- Learn to say no.
- Seek support.
Doing these three things will help you decide what boundaries should be set, how they should be set, and how to protect your boundaries.
But before we dive into each of these, let’s define some terms and discuss why setting boundaries can benefit you.
How to Set Boundaries: Check In With Yourself.
Are you feeling trapped, belittled, or controlled? People who struggle to set personal boundaries with others can have trouble feeling confident in saying what they really need. They can feel like they don’t have enough space, or that the world can’t handle their true emotional, physical, or mental needs.
If you find yourself feeling any of the emotions described above, you may have trouble setting boundaries.
Is there a person in your life that makes you feel trapped, belittled, or simply less than? Or someone who just makes you feel uneasy?
The next time you’re around them and you start feeling negative or unhappy, check in with yourself. How does this person make you feel? What is it they’re doing or saying that makes you uncomfortable?
If you’ve been in a relationship with this person for a long time, it can be difficult to know what you feel and why you’re feeling it. It may help you to journal about your thoughts and feelings. This way, you can take a step back and analyze what may be bothering you.
Be honest with yourself about what you’re feeling. You are allowed to feel uncomfortable, uneasy, or afraid. You are allowed to feel angry, upset, embarrassed or disturbed. Your feelings are telling you something, and it’s important to listen carefully.
Learn To Say No.
Saying no will take some practice, and you may not always get it quite right. This is perfectly normal for someone who is practicing boundary setting. And it is just that – a practice, or a skill.
It will take a bit of effort, but learning how to protect yourself with boundaries is well worth the effort.
Saying “no” will look different based on whatever situation or person you are dealing with. You may say “no” to a potential roommate, a potential new boss, or an after work activity.
Consider if any of the following responses may be right for you. Note that while not all actually use the word “no,” they all express some variation of its meaning.
- “No, I don’t have the time to commit to this project. But I may have time in the next week/month/quarter, so we can revisit this then if you’d prefer.”
- “No, I think our lifestyles are too different for us to be compatible roommates.”
- “No, I’m not comfortable being touched there.”
- “I need you to give me some space.”
- “No, I’ve made other plans this weekend.”
- “I think I’m going to need more time to make this decision. Can I get back to you next week?”
Our clinical director, Adam Rahman, frequently encourages his clients to use one or more of the following mantras as they learn to set healthy boundaries:
- It’s not my job to fix others
- It’s okay to say no
- It’s not my job to take responsibility for others
- I don’t have to anticipate the needs of others
- Nobody has to agree with me
- I am responsible for my own feelings
- I have the right to express my needs honestly
- I am enough
It can be easier to set healthy boundaries when you are fully supported by those you trust. Consider telling a close friend, colleague, or family member that you know you can rely on. Ask them to support you in setting healthy boundaries, and be as specific as you can about what the situation may entail and why it’s difficult for you.
No situation that lacks boundaries is uncomplicated, but some are more serious than others. If you are afraid for your physical safety, please get in touch with your local authorities. If you are being abused or controlled, reach out to a local shelter or hotline. There are people who can help you.
Here at Social House, we help people from all walks of life set boundaries. As trained counselors, we have the tools and resources you may need to set and protect healthy boundaries in the relationships in your life. We love helping our clients listen to themselves and find ways of rebuilding their sense of self. Would you like to get in touch? We’d love to schedule a session with you.