Do you ever find you’re the “go-to” person when it comes to having extra work dropped on your plate by co-workers or your boss, family members expecting you to drop everything to meet their needs, or feeling resentful for taking on more than seems reasonable, at the expense of your own needs? If so, it’s very possible your personal boundaries might need some attention.
Having healthy boundaries is essentially about knowing and understanding what your limits are. Being clear on those limits and then knowing how to protect them also has powerful flow-on effects on how other people treat you. Building and protecting personal boundaries can be a confronting idea, but there are some simple ways you can create boundaries with yourself that you will actually keep:
1. Name Your Limits
It’s difficult to set boundaries without identifying what your limits are. You are responsible for how you allow other people to treat you so get clear on what your most important values are. Write them down and, using them as your guide, figure out what you're comfortable with and what you’re not. For example, a personal boundary at work could be: I value honesty and integrity. Before accepting more work on my plate, I create space to check my calendar and priorities first before answering “yes” or “no”.
2. Prioritize Self-Care
It’s difficult to be the best we can be (for ourselves and those around us) if we don’t prioritize the importance of setting healthy boundaries. Viewing it as a fundamental act of self-care means you recognize and respect the importance of your feelings, your time, and your energy. When you have clearly defined personal limits, it protects and respects the relationship you have with yourself & your overall wellbeing.
3. Realize that “No” and “Yes” are Equally Weighted
Saying no is as good as saying yes. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking “yes” is a better answer because it will please others, but doing things you don’t want to do, or that cross your personal boundaries, isn’t honorable self-sacrifice, it’s unfair to you and others (especially when resentment rears its ugly head!).
4. Watch for the Red Flags
There are generally two main feelings that are red flags that you’re letting your boundaries slip: unease and resentment. These two feelings can manifest in feelings like anger, annoyance, guilt, feeling deflated, or a sense of being disengaged. Consider these red flags that you’re pushing yourself beyond your own previously set limits. Hit pause on the situation, revisit your values and then reinforce your boundaries by either withdrawing from whatever you said yes to or committing to making sure not to make the same mistake next time.
Clear boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and, ultimately, a healthy and fulfilling life. Setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill and takes practice, but it’s not only a sign of self-respect, but it’s also respectful to others in your life as they’ll more easily know what to expect (or not expect) from you. So if you’re ready to live from a more empowering context, give yourself permission to set boundaries and do the daily work to preserve them.