It’s the Holiday Season which means extra time with family and friends.
While this can be fun, it can also be a huge stressor.
Boundaries get crossed left and right. Your mother, grilling you on your love life. Your siblings, nit-picking about your partner. And your uncle, still trying to figure out exactly what you do for a living.
If you’re like me, you’re tired of letting these moments get to you.
It’s time to express yourself:
It’s no surprise we live in an overly-connected world. From familial relationships, to partners, to social media—it can be challenging to know what the boundaries are, let alone how to set them appropriately.
Setting boundaries was an integral part of building my sense of self, managing my expectations, and preserving my energy. It was a key skill I needed to learn to take ownership of my happiness, health, and productivity.
Personally, I’ve built boundaries two ways: from the outside-in and the inside-out.
I’ve set boundaries with conscious effort and this changed me on the inside. I’ve also shifted my beliefs and energy in order to allow boundaries to automatically form.
As I got better at setting boundaries, I found that I didn’t align with negative people anymore. Synchronicity increased and the Universe brought me to the people, places, and things I needed to continue my growth.
All this has taught me that I can’t expect people to respect the boundaries I don’t set.
Here is the plan I used and continue to use to help me set boundaries:
There are eight key steps to setting a boundary:
- Notice a boundary is needed.
- Decide what you want.
- Scan your options for communicating what you want.
- Set your boundary thoughtfully, clearly, and respectfully.
- Let the person’s reaction be his or her business.
- Support your boundary. Don’t weaken it to try to fix his or her reaction.
- If the person’s behavior continues, reaffirm and strengthen the boundary by being clearer and more direct.
Next, bring your attention back to yourself and notice how it feels to protect yourself and your energy. And let’s look at an actual example.
For many of us, setting up a verbal boundary can be a real challenge. Think of a situation in which you need to set a boundary. It could be with someone who you often say “yes” to when you really want to say “no.” It could be with someone who peppers you with questions you don’t want to answer. It could even be with a sibling or coworker who borrows things without asking.
- What is the situation?
- Until now, have I endured it? Lashed out? Retaliated? Felt helpless?
- How has that worked for me?
- Has anything changed for the better?
- What has it cost me to put up with it?
- The last time it happened, how did I feel afterward?
- Do I feel a boundary is needed? Why or why not? And what do I really want and can I state it clearly?
- What are some statements I could make to the person that would set a boundary?
“No, Sarah. I’m not going to do that.”
“Mike, stop taking things without asking. If you’d like to borrow something,
please ask and then wait for my reply.”
Which of my statements is the clearest, the most straightforward, and most direct? Do I want to start with that one? If it seems too harsh, I pick a milder one that still states specifically what I want.
When I’m clear about what I want to do, I follow these steps:
- At the first opportunity, I make my statement to the person involved.
- I Don’t make the other person’s reaction my business. I pause and notice how it feels to leave it with that person.
- I take note of my impulses. Am I tempted to take back or weaken my boundary? Am I tempted to explain or rationalize it?
- If I do weaken it or take it back, I notice how that feels. If I hold the line, I notice how that feels.
- I notice whether the other person’s response triggered a reaction in me. If so, what was that reaction? Did I act on it in any way?
- I notice how it feels to protect myself, to safeguard my energy and my sanity.
- Once I’ve set a boundary, I monitor it. If the other person starts slipping and reverting to old behavior, I set the boundary again with a stronger statement next time.
Observing and writing about these situations helps us to connect to our deeper issues with boundaries. In my journey, it has helped me to connect to my higher self.
Setting boundaries is a new behavior for most of us. It takes practice and patience before it becomes a natural part of your self-care.
This tool has helped me to be guided, take action, and make the best decisions for my health, my happiness, my productivity, and my overall life.
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Assistant Editor: Kathryn Ashworth/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: elephant media library