Alright friends, I’m back with another article that piggybacks off a recent one published on recognizing healthy relationships. Now it’s time to talk about boundaries. You may have seen lots of content on popular social media sites like TikTok and Instagram about the importance of setting healthy boundaries, and those posts are there for a reason. Boundaries are a normal part of life and many times, we have boundaries set in place that we’re not aware of.
Think about your relationship with your professors..they have certain office hours or times to contact them for help. That’s a boundary. Putting your phone on “do not disturb”? Another boundary. Businesses setting hours, relationships with therapists, doctors, lawyers, etc., and simply saying no are all examples of boundaries that we see everyday and don’t think much of. So why is it that when it comes to setting boundaries with friends and family it sucks?
Setting boundaries with people in our lives can be extremely difficult and challenging. I love the quote about boundaries from Brene Brown, an American professor. She states “daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others”. This quote rings true because boundaries can lead to others feeling disappointed or upset with us, and at the same time it shows such a big sense of self love. When we set boundaries with people in our lives, we run the risk of them being unhappy because usually it means they stop benefitting. But I like to pose the question of, which is more important…your relationship with them or your relationship with yourself?
Like Brene Brown says, when we have the courage to set a boundary and protect ourselves, we show love to ourselves. Many times we have to set boundaries because we’re feeling something negative like burnt out, overwhelmed, or emotional. Boundaries are ways we get to preserve our hearts and souls and there may be certain people in each of our lives who don’t like us putting ourselves first. But I’m here to tell you that you have to put yourself first in life. We need to keep our own cups full of water before we can pour out to fill the cups of others. And it’s so important to keep track of how full your cup is, who’s taking all of your water, and what helps put that metaphorical water back in your cup when it’s running low.
MY CUP IS EMPTY
Some of you reading this may be fully aware of when your cup is empty and you need to implement boundaries, but for others, it can be a bit more difficult to identify the need for boundaries. Let me make this quick for you- if you feel relationships make you feel overwhelmed, stressed, sad, tired, or lonely more often than not, it’s probably time for you to set a boundary. More realistic examples include not answering phone calls or FaceTimes from certain people, feeling exhausted after spending time with a particular friend or family member, and feeling like you’re always going along with everyone else’s wants and needs. Of course feeling like you need a boundary can look different for you, since we’re all unique, however these are some of the most common things we see.
HELP ME PROTECT MY WATER!
I’m really going with this cup and water metaphor today, so now let’s tackle how to actually set a boundary and protect yourself from those unwanted feelings. I’ll break it down into some simple steps for you to follow because boundary setting can be overwhelming and I want to make this as easy as possible.
1. Identify the problem
Do you want to spend more or less time with someone? Are you not ready to take the next step with that girl or guy you met at a party last week? Is your roommate driving you nuts with their dirty clothes creeping onto your side of the room?
2. What do you want to change?
Once we’ve identified the actual thing that makes us feel there is a problem, we now want to consider what we want to change. Maybe you don’t want to go out but your friends always convince you to. Maybe you want to stay friends with someone who is into you. Think about your happiness and wellbeing when considering this.
3. Be assertive!
For many of us, assertive communication can be difficult. Lucky for you, I have yet another tip to help you practice communicating those boundaries to people in your life. Remember that being assertive doesn’t mean being aggressive. In the next step, we’ll look at a skill that therapists often use with their clients to teach them how to be assertive.
4. Use FAST technique
The FAST skill comes to us from a model of therapy called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which was developed by Marsha Linehan to help clients in many areas of their life. Here’s what it stands for:
- F: Fairness. When setting a boundary, be fair to yourself, but also to other people. We want to make sure we’re validating ourselves and the other person.
- A: Apologizing. Be aware of how much you’re apologizing. When using assertive communication, we want to make sure we’re not over-apologizing because when we do, we seem less confident and assertive.
- S: Sticking to it. Stick to your values, beliefs, opinions and boundaries. When setting a boundary and asserting ourselves, people may try to sway us. Sticking to your guns can be really helpful here.
- T: Telling the truth. Nobody likes a liar and we all deserve the truth, so be honest when you’re setting a boundary. Being honest can be done gently, so don’t over exaggerate or make excuses for your boundary.
Unfortunately when we set boundaries, there are times where the other person will be unreceptive to it. This may be because they didn’t understand us, they forgot, or they aren’t respecting what we’ve put in place for ourselves. If you notice this happening, don’t be afraid to set the boundary again. Some people will need to be reminded because they genuinely forgot, and that’s okay. Maintaining boundaries can be difficult when we let things slide here and there because “it’s not a big deal”, but this can also send the message that the other person’s words or actions are okay with us. As you start to practice the implementation of boundaries, be cautious of those individuals who continually disrespect your boundary or try to change it. This usually means they aren’t the healthiest person to have around and we’ve got to protect ourselves. The ultimate boundary can be cutting someone off, but when you use the FAST skill to deliver the news, it can lessen the blow and end up being the best thing you’ve ever done. Because at the end of the day, you all deserve to set and maintain boundaries to live a happy, peaceful life.