You may have heard it’s smart to set boundaries, and then forgotten about the idea. After all, aren’t they natural? They happen by themselves. Don’t they?
No one creates boundaries on auto-pilot. You need to think about what you will, and won’t put up with in life. Otherwise, you’ll be like a sailboat cast loose on the ocean. Uncontrollable undercurrents will drag you around. Wouldn’t you rather choose where to sail?
What are boundaries?
Boundaries help you express who you are and determine how you manage energy and time.
They can be mental, physical, or emotional.
One example is if you decide not to partner with anyone who likes relationship non-exclusivity. (Or the opposite). Another might be not to lend money to someone with an abysmal track record for making repayments.
On an emotional level, you may not tolerate someone who cheats, lies, or bullies. A physical boundary could be not training beyond a risk limit for your ability at the gym.
Healthy boundaries keep you safe and teach people how you expect them to treat you. They also give you confidence to be the person you prefer being. When you show people what you will and will not tolerate, you create balance in your relationships.
Why people have weak boundaries
People who long to please often have weak boundaries. Their desire to get others to like them means they overlook personal wellbeing.
The aim to please can stem from a fear of rejection. People-pleasers sometimes imagine if they make themselves indispensable, they’ll gain approval. The truth is, you are replaceable if you’re in an unbalanced, disingenuous relationship. People won’t care more because you’re a giver. They might cash in while the going’s good and then turn tail.
Poor boundary-setting can also come from lack of experience coupled with low self-esteem. If you aren’t taught about boundaries when you’re young, you may not recognize you need limits.
We need boundaries as kids to keep us safe and show us the benefit of limit-setting. Without boundaries, we’re insecure. We might become independent early. But insecurity follows us into adulthood like a lost dog.
It’s a mistake to think people will treat you with respect because that’s a decent way to behave. Some will. But some won’t unless you express your values and are clear about what you won’t tolerate.
Even when you set boundaries, there will be a few people who cross the line. When you recognize them, that’s your cue to reinstate your limits or break ties with them.
The idea it’s egocentric not to say yes to demands is a myth too. Being assertive about your needs doesn’t make you unkind. It makes you strong. And it makes you a healthy role model.
How to set better boundaries
•Don’t be a giver out of obligation or fear the consequences of not pleasing. And understand indispensability is overrated. Run a mental checklist when someone asks you to do something and alarm bells ring. If there’s a knot in your stomach, the chances are the demands you face are unreasonable.
•Develop a “no” response to use when people ask more from you than you want to give. Declining a demand could seem awkward at first. But your inner strength will build the more often you assert your boundaries.
•Recognize the number one reason to agree to a request is because you want to.
•Identify your needs. For instance, you might want to enjoy personal relaxation time. Or engage in a passion project rather than bake cakes for a local sale. When you recognize your needs it’s easier to fulfill them instead of going with the flow.
Remember why you need boundaries
Don’t forget why boundaries are important. They steer you away from harm, increase well-being, and let people know how you expect them to treat you. They also give you the courage to be assertive when you need it most.