4 Steps to Setting Healthy Boundaries
Deciding you could benefit from setting boundaries in your life is one thing, but learning how to actually implement those limits is another thing entirely.
When you successfully set a boundary, you are communicating to yourself and others what behavior is and isn’t okay with you. Ultimately, you’re becoming the guardian of your time, space, and energy— and allowing yourself to reassess where you’re putting too much effort into pleasing others.
Here’s the thing: setting boundaries isn’t as natural as it seems on paper (or else we’d all be doing it!). The act of learning how to say No can come with uncomfortable conversations, disheartening pushback, and feeling the need to second-guess your decision.
But you must stick to your guns. Even better, keep in mind why you’re embarking on this journey in the first place.
To help you better navigate this practice, I’m sharing my top tips to get comfortable voicing your No. These suggestions are sure to put you on the fast track to becoming a recovering people-pleaser and taking back your own power today.
1. Familiarize yourself with the different types of boundaries
When it comes to creating boundaries within your life, consider that there are two different types of boundaries you can set: internal and external.
Internal boundaries are the limits we place on ourselves to help protect our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Dishonoring internal boundaries could look like failing to honor the goals set for yourself (such as committing to working out a set number of days each week), or not listening to your intuition or highest self.
On the other hand, external boundaries involve others and focus on the behaviors, requests, and asks of those around us. When we don’t honor our external boundaries, others can take advantage of us physically and emotionally (which can also include our time and energy).
2. Not everyone needs to know why you’re saying No (but sometimes they do)
Have you heard the saying, “No is a complete sentence”?
Well, sometimes that’s true! There are times when telling others No or setting a boundary doesn’t require an additional explanation on your end. “No” is sufficient: Try not to feel guilted into giving more information than needed.
On the other hand, there are times when backing up your No with a few extra words might be the right call—like when setting boundaries with your boss or a family member.
Providing a loving explanation around why you’re choosing to set a boundary can ease the tension and provide reassurance for those closest to you.
Also, this short explanation can empower you to set new boundaries in the future.
Be wise with who you choose to divulge your boundary-setting reasonings to, and remember that not everyone needs to hear your why.
3. Know what to do when your boundaries are challenged
Your newly established boundaries can be challenged or put to the test by others for many reasons, and it’s essential to know how to respond.
When someone challenges your No, recognize that a change in your usual behavior (saying No when you normally say Yes) can be confusing for the other person. In fact, your behavior change can disrupt the temporary sense of security the other person feels when you say Yes or agree with their requests.
Keep your boundaries firm anyway.
Additionally, opening up and being vulnerable about your struggle with setting boundaries can often disarm the person who is attempting to push your limits.
For example, you could say, “It’s tough, but I’m working on setting boundaries because I realize I often give more than I can manage. Thanks for your support.”
4. Remember that you’re worthy of setting boundaries
Sometimes, it can feel like you have to check off a list of imaginary boxes before you deem yourself worthy or “allowed” to set boundaries.
You do not need anyone’s permission, nor do you need to fulfill a made-up list of requirements to begin to set limits within your life.
Exercise your inherent right to say No and begin to see how your time, energy, and happiness begin to shift and change.
Final thoughts on setting boundaries
At the end of the day, learning to set boundaries is a practice that requires patience and grace with ourselves and others. Setting limits and saying No can feel extremely unnatural at first, but as with most things, the more you practice, the better you’ll become.
As you begin to integrate boundaries into various areas of your life—family, work, personal, friends, finances, etc.—take inventory of how your feelings begin to shift. You may notice that setting limits feels natural and effortless in some areas, and a little more complicated and tricky in others.
Take this new practice moment-by-moment and remember to go easy on yourself. You’re learning something new (and potentially life-changing), after all.
UP NEXT: SELF-ACCEPTANCE: LOVING THE PERFECTLY IMPERFECT YOU