Do you feel people take advantage of you in certain situations, such as physically, financially or emotionally? Do you find it difficult to say "no" to others who ask you for favors? Do you put other people's needs ahead of your own in order to be liked?
If any of those sound familiar, you need to create stronger boundaries.
The word "boundaries" gets kicked around a lot. People constantly talk about the need to set boundaries, but what exactly does that mean? Simply put, boundaries are the necessary separations that we often need from others to take care of our own needs. It sometimes means expressing to a friend, family member or partner certain behaviors that are negatively impacting your comfort levels.
Of course, expressing your needs for boundaries from others is easier said than done! It's mainly learning when and how to say "no" to others, instead of always being a "people pleaser" at your own expense. It's natural to feel like you owe others a lengthy explanation why you can't perform a certain task, attend an event, do them a favor, etc. But setting a good boundary is an explanation in and of itself. You can just say, "I'm sorry, but I can't commit to going to that event at this time." Simply stating that you're not available is a perfect response, and you don't need to justify it. The purpose behind setting healthy boundaries is to let others know what is acceptable or not.
Your boundaries can also change and evolve over time. As you create healthier boundaries, you can adjust them depending on each situation or the other people involved. It's important to find a balance. If your boundaries are too weak, you might allow others to take advantage of you or continue to accept abusive behavior. But if your boundaries are too strict, you might make the mistake of keeping loving, caring people at a distance.
Why are Boundaries so Important?
Have you noticed how lousy you feel when your boundaries aren't respected? You might feel hurt, bullied, or disrespected. Plus, it can trigger depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Good boundaries are important because they create the foundation for healthy relationships with not only others, but yourself. When you learn to set them, they'll help you feel safer and like you're taking care of yourself. Boundaries have a positive impact on your emotional well-being because they give you the emotional and physical personal space that you need with others in any given situation. When your emotional boundaries are respected by others, you'll feel valued and not taken advantage of. It can increase your self-confidence by allowing you to prioritize your own needs, while not being intimidated to state them to others.
How to Set Boundaries
For the most successful boundaries, keep them in line with your personal values. For example, if you value your time for a certain class, your boundary would be to never accept an invitation that interferes during that time. This way, you have control when you prioritize what brings you fulfillment in life rather than being a people pleaser.
If you're like many people, even thinking about creating stronger boundaries can create anxiety and fear. You might worry that you'll lose people who are close to you if you draw your own line in the sand. But the more you practice implementing boundaries, the easier it'll become. You'll find that some people will be very supportive of your healthy new boundaries, while others who are used to treating you like a doormat refuse to respect the "new you." Sometimes it's best to end relationships with others who refuse to respect your boundaries for your own peace of mind. After all, it will make more space for new, healthy relationships to enter your life.