How to start setting healthy boundaries, and why it's important to your wellbeing
Setting boundaries is an important component of healthy living because it impacts almost all areas of our lives. Our work, relationships, mental health, and even our physical wellbeing, are all reliant on us setting good boundaries- so how can we start doing this?
I want to start by saying that setting boundaries can be quite difficult! We live in a society that (for the most part) does not teach us to know our limits and honor them, but rather praises those who overwork themselves by constantly saying "yes" to everyone and every thing. Don't get me wrong- saying yes to certain people and opportunities can definitely be a good thing! There's a difference, however, between saying yes because we want to, and saying yes because we feel like we have to.
For those who identify as women, this pressure can be even more intense. Society still has expectations that women constantly be kind, loving, accepting, and especially giving. We praise women who give every part of their being to the people around them, and we deem those who take time for themselves, or practice self-care, "selfish". Privilege in the workplace is also important to take note of here, as there are many fields of work where women, and other marginalized individuals, are forced to work twice as hard as their co-workers in order to be viewed as successful in their field, making healthy boundary setting even more difficult.
All of this being said, boundary setting can support us in feeling mentally and physically healthy, and allows us to live more in alignment with our values, making the moments of difficulty worth it. It can be challenging at first, especially if you are new to boundary setting, but like with many other things in life, it takes time and practice. To get started, here are a few short and simple tips:
Boundary setting tips:
Get clear on your values- having clarity around your values is an important first step in setting boundaries. It allows you to see what's important to you and what you will be setting boundaries around.
List your priorities- once you are more familiar with your values, you can start listing your priorities based off of these values. For example, if health is a value of yours, you might make meal planning or exercising a priority. If financial stability is a value of yours, you might start setting boundaries around your spending and budgeting.
Name your limits- naming your limits will allow you to more easily practice a step coming up in healthy boundary setting (saying "no"). By knowing what your limits are, and communicating them when needed, you honor yourself and your values. For example, if one of your limits is no work on the weekend, you can communicate that to a friend or loved one that will hold you accountable for setting that boundary. You can also communicate it to your employer so that they know ahead of time not to schedule you for extra work on the weekends.
Listen to what you need- listening to and understanding what you need will not only help you better understand yourself, but it will also support you in boundary setting. If someone asks something of you, try and take a moment before immediately saying "yes" so that you can listen to what you need and want. A lot of us have learned that pleasing others is what's important in life, but most of the time, this comes at the cost of taking care of ourselves. By taking a step-back and giving yourself time to reflect on what you need, you can make a more informed and healthy decision when being asked to do something or when setting a boundary.
Practice saying "no"- now that you have a better idea of your values, priorities, needs, and limits, it's time to practice to saying "no" to the things that are not in alignment with these (when it is accessible to do so). It might take a while, and it will likely feel strange and difficult at first, but practicing saying "no" to others will allow you to get more and more comfortable saying "yes" to yourself.
Start small- if you're new to boundary setting, the whole concept can feel quite daunting at first. Try starting with small changes and adjustments, and as always, be kind to yourself as you learn how to set boundaries that will allow you to live a more intentional and happier life.