Self-Care 101: A Quick Guide to Setting Boundaries & Honoring Your Needs

1. Make a List (and check it twice)

If you could make a dream list of your needs and boundaries — without worrying how others would react — what would they be? Maybe it’s telling your partner that you need to carve out some more alone time for yourself. Maybe it’s telling a friend that the social activities they organize is putting a dent in your bank account and causing anxiety. Jot your thoughts down, and start devising an action plan for how you might be able to implement them. If you’re unsure how to proceed, talking with a friend, family member, or therapist may help.

2. Practice Makes Perfect (or at least not so fumbly)

Write down your thoughts. If you’re planning on having a one-on-one talk, rehearse with yourself or with others. Get feedback. The more you practice, the more confident you will be when the time comes to talk to someone.

3. Understand That People Aren’t Psychic

Don’t expect someone else to know what you need unless you clearly ask for it. Not speaking up yet simultaneously expecting someone to be in tune with your exact needs is unfair to the other person. Communicate. Try not to blame. Clearly lay out your needs. Give loved ones a chance to show up for you.

4. Rinse, Lather, Repeat

You may need to articulate your needs on multiple occasions (or more) for people to get it. This isn’t a one-shot deal. Make communicating needs and setting boundaries as much a part of your routine as brushing your teeth.

5. Discomfort Over Resentment (h/t Brené Brown)

There are a million reasons why you may be ignoring or downplaying your needs. You don’t want to rock the boat, you want to fit in with the group, you don’t want to annoy someone, etc. Social pressure is a strong force, and it can be easy to not speak up. But guess what? Difficult conversations are an essential part of self-care, and life in general. When confronted with a trying situation, try the mantra “Discomfort over resentment”: meaning that it’s much better to honor your needs — even if voicing them is uncomfortable — than stay silent and secretly resent the other person.

6. It’s Never Too Late to Speak Up

It is not a requirement to voice your needs in real time. As mentioned above, different social factors can impede you from speaking up (in the moment, or even at all). Setting boundaries doesn’t have an expiration date. Whether it’s 1 day or 20 years after the fact, you are well within your right to communicate your needs and boundaries.

7. Your Needs May Change Over Time…And That’s Ok

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Shit happens. Circumstances change. It’s ok if your needs change, and there’s no shame in voicing that.

8. Don’t Feel Guilty for Taking Care of Yourself

No, you’re not a bad person. No, you’re not selfish (unless you literally only think about yourself 24/7/365, which I’m going to go out on a limb and say is probably not the case). Your true friends will support and respect your needs. And if someone is giving you a hard time about it, then you may either need to have an honest conversation with them, or reevaluate the friendship. Your self-care is important, and nothing to apologize for.

Now, get to self-caring!