Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and, really, a healthy life. Setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill. We might pick up pointers here and there from experience or through watching others. But for many of us, boundary-building is a relatively new concept and a challenging one. Boundary setting means keeping our loved ones happy, but not at the expense of our own feelings and happiness.
Here is some insight into building better boundaries and maintaining them.
- Name your limits
You can’t set good boundaries if you’re unsure of where you stand. So identify your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits. Consider what you can tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed. What makes you uncomfortable? What are your values and morals?
- Tune into your feelings
There are two key feelings in others that are red flags or cues that we’re letting go of our boundaries: discomfort and resentment. While we may feel these with many people, one way to evaluate if it is unhealthy is thinking about these feelings on a scale from 1-10. Six to 10 is in the higher zone.
If you’re at the higher end of this scale, with another person think about asking yourself, what is causing that? What is it about this interaction, or the person’s expectation that is bothering me?
Resentment usually “comes from being taken advantage of or not appreciated.” It’s often a sign that we’re pushing ourselves either beyond our own limits because we feel guilty (and want to be a good daughter or wife, for instance), or someone else is imposing their expectations, views or values on us. When someone acts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s a cue to us they may be violating or crossing a boundary.
- Be direct
With some people, maintaining healthy boundaries doesn’t require a direct and clear-cut discussion. With others, such as those who have a different personality or cultural background, you’ll need to be more direct about your boundaries. Consider the following example: one person feels that challenging someone’s opinions is a healthy way of communicating, but to another person this feels disrespectful and tense.
There are other times you might need to be direct. For instance, in a romantic relationship, time can become a boundary issue. Partners might need to talk about how much time they need to maintain their sense of self and how much time to spend together. Just by saying what you feel WHEN you feel it, you help remind yourself and others about what is and is not acceptable for you.
Just like any new skill, being able to successfully communicate your boundaries takes practice. I suggest that you start off with a small boundary that isn’t threatening to you, and then incrementally increasing to more challenging boundaries. Setting boundaries takes courage, practice and support, just remember remember that it’s a skill you can master.
Complied by Olivia Guerini