How can you can set healthy boundaries, and maintain them for the long run?
Boundaries provide healthy rules in order to maintain and navigate personal and professional relationships. Setting boundaries helps us conserve our energy.
There are no 'right' and 'wrong' boundaries. We all have different values. Boundaries can, for example, be influenced by the culture we live in.
A study done on American, Chinese and Korean families on the boundaries around talking about family health histories showed that both culture, age, and gender affected what boundaries were seen as acceptable.
An example of setting a boundary would be around time. You might have a friend who calls you daily even though you work from home. In order to set a boundary, you should calmly state that you can only talk to her in the evenings after your work day is finished. You decide what works for you.
You go along with other people’s preferences and ideas. You might also agree to do things you’re uncomfortable doing, because you don’t really know your own values.
You know how to ask other people to have their needs met but are still unsure of yourself. So you allow others to break your boundaries from time to time.
If your boundaries are rigid, you might not allow anything to come into your world. You might be completely closed off from those around you. This type of boundary is caused by a traumatic experience that scarred you and made you distrusting of other people.
Flexible boundaries are about letting good things in and keeping the bad stuff out. This is the ideal boundary to have. It protects you from unhealthy and manipulative people, but doesn’t stop you from trusting others you want to create new experiences with.
Remember the following rights that you and everyone else has in any relationship:
This reminder is especially important for those who tend to please others in relationships.
Check in with your body and see how you feel when you’re in conversation with someone. If you feel tense and anxious it means you either need to set a boundary, or reinforce one that has been crossed.
When you know your values, you can realise when someone disrespects them by overlooking or minimizing them.
For example, if your value is to be in good health and that means no alcohol, but you go out with friends who do drink? If you are sure of your value, you can easily say no to friends without it being a big deal, even if they get tipsy and pressure you to try to join them.
Getting angry or defensive when setting a boundary can mean the other person doesn’t respect the boundary but rebels against it.
Statements like ‘I feel...when you..because…’ and ‘What I need is...’ open the doors to healthy communication and a greater chance the other person will take you seriously.
Realize that no is a whole sentence and not a word. You can decline something without giving an explanation.
You have the right to say no to anything you don’t like or find unpleasant. This also means that others have the right to say no to you and reject you, and that’s okay.
Setting boundaries with yourself can gives you more confidence, and helps you trust yourself and your life choices.
This can mean things like dealing with your financial anxiety by setting a budget, or setting boundaries around the amount of time you’ll spend in front of the television.
It can relate to a childhood where you were not allowed to be yourself, but were only accepted if you behaved certain ways.
It can also relate to childhood trauma, which decimates a child’s sense of self and agency. Sometimes we need to work on recognising and resolving these past traumas in order to gain the self-esteem to set boundaries.
Time to finally face what stops you from setting healthy boundaries? Book a session now and talk to an online therapist as soon as tomorrow.
Marlena Eva is a mental health and financial writer based in the UK.