Boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can act on their own priorities, and make time for the things that are important to them, like self-care, exercise, leisure activities and family. Many of us feel overwhelmed when we take on too much, or feel we must say yes when asked to do things we would rather not do. This can leave us feeling disrespected and burned out.
We often say yes to others without thinking of our own priorities, so we don’t have the space to say yes to ourselves. We recently heard an apt filter when something is asked of us: “If it’s not an ‘Absolutely YES!’, then it’s an ‘Absolutely NO!’”.
It’s hard to set boundaries, both professionally and personally. But no one can give 100% to ten different things, so we may end up feeling we are always short-changing ourselves and our loved ones. But selflessness is not always helpful, if we get to the point where we have nothing left to give. As they say: “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Of course we care about others, but this should not be at the expense of taking care of ourselves.
There are many advantages of learning to set boundaries. Boundaries are about what we can and cannot accept, how we want to be treated, and what does and does not work for us.
Boundaries are based on your values and the things that are important to you.
Your boundaries are deeply personal; many of your boundaries may align with those of others, but some will be unique to you.
Know your boundaries before entering a situation. This will make it easier to say no to something you are not comfortable with.
If you find it tricky to set boundaries, remember you always have the right to say “no”. Here are some good examples of boundary statements:
That doesn’t work for me
Not at this time
I’m not comfortable with this
I need to think about this carefully before I take that on
I’ve decided not to…
I simply can’t
When making boundary statements, be firm but respectful of the other person. Avoid a harsh or apologetic tone. Make it clear it is about your choices, not them.
Having clear boundaries helps create more time and space for our own needs and priorities. With clear boundaries, we can have more time for the people, projects and experiences that we want in our lives. This is healthy both emotionally and physically, and reduces a lot of stress!
It also demonstrates to others how you wish to be treated, with respect and autonomy. And it gives others permission to say no too: you are leading by example.