How To Set Boundaries? Tip 1: The Basics
What feelings and thoughts come to your mind when you hear / read that question? Next question – do you know how to set boundaries effectively in your life for the wellbeing of yourself and others?
We all sort of intuitively know what the word boundaries means. But understanding the concept and being able to effectively put it into practice are very different. Learning how to set boundaries is a completely different subject matter and life coaching (as well as therapy) can be very helpful here.
Unfortunately, as useful as this skill is, the idea of ‘how to set boundaries’ is still a subject and tool that most of us don’t really have mastered.
Whether it is with family members, significant others, friends, or co-workers (or even ourselves to ourselves), it doesn’t really matter. Setting boundaries, when someone (including us) begins to encroach on your mental health and stability is extremely important.
But learning how to set boundaries in a way that doesn’t feel as if you are burning a bridge you’d rather keep access to is crucial. It’s also a crucial to learn how to set boundaries in a way that you don’t beat yourself up about afterwards either..
Inherently, most of us are people-pleasers. We don’t want to say no or to let someone else down. However, by always saying ‘yes’ to others or letting them into your space, you are actually saying ‘no’ to you. Think about that and feel the weight of that statement. Constantly saying yes to others means you are actually saying no to yourself and your needs.
You can set boundaries in virtually every area of your life that you need to. From your emotions, finances, space, time, energy, food, material possessions, and sexuality.
You can only let people into certain areas of your life so far. And how far is dependent on what feels right for you, not what feels right for someone else.
If you are struggling to learn what effective boundary setting means for you, keep reading for some inspiration.
How To Set Boundaries – Tip 2: Know Your Limits
The first and best tool you can use when learning how to set boundaries is to think about the things happening in your life that you aren’t okay with. Is someone demanding your time and energy, with little thought to how you might feel about it?
Are you constantly saying ‘yes’ to extra work and responsibilities, even though you really have no desire to handle more? What actually isn’t working in your life right now? If you figure this out, you will learn how you have already violated your own boundaries without knowing it.
There is nothing wrong with knowing your limits. You should not feel shamed or remorseful when you need to put your own sanity (and needs) first. Ask yourself these questions:
- What am I dreading each day?
- Who do I feel zaps me of my energy and happiness?
- What is causing me to feel extremely uncomfortable?
- How do the things happening around me cause me to feel?
By beginning with those questions, you can narrow down what boundaries you need to set for yourself and others. In this method, we are identifying the different areas where boundaries were violated (so that we can prevent more of the same). Does that make sense?
How To Set Boundaries – Tip 3: Speak Up About It
When you want to get good at how to set boundaries, it is important to know that it involves more than just saying, “I won’t tolerate this anymore.” You have to actually speak them (your boundaries) out loud and set them and repeat them until they are enforced.
In some cases, it is very hard to do. At work, for example, is a place where many people struggle to say no. However, when you are either having to take work home with you or if your free time hours are spent worrying about work, it’s important to learn how to set boundaries to prevent burnout and promote work life balance (life work balance!)
Likewise, you can’t expect people to know you are setting boundaries with them if you don’t actually say it to them. People can’t read our minds and it is important to be direct so that people have the best chance of understanding and respecting our boundaries.
You don’t have to actually say, “I’m setting this boundary,” (but you can!) but think about why you have had to do this in the first place. If someone demands that you give them your time, you can simply say, “I have my own stuff going on right now, but I’ll be there when I can.” You can set boundaries for yourself while not being harsh towards other people. You can actually use of my favorite phrases for this which is, “That doesn’t work for me”.
How To Set Boundaries – Tip 4: It Won’t Always be Instant
When you set a boundary with someone, it would be nice if it was instant. From that moment on, they would obey your need for space or for putting yourself first. It isn’t a perfect world, though. Learning how to set boundaries with others will always take time and practice. Just like it took time for those boundaries to be crossed in the first place.
Remember that you are taking the steps that you need to make in order to ensure that your anxiety and stress is more easily managed. Be patient and trust in the process. If you are struggling to set healthy boundaries, life coaching can help you learn to finally put yourself first, struggle less, and enjoy life more.
Having healthy boundaries has also been shown to improve your overall wellbeing as well as reduce stress levels. As mentioned it does take time (but not that much time!) so try to be gentle on yourself and full of self encouragement as you learn how to set boundaries for life and for good!
If you’re interested in learning more about how life coaching can help you understand how to set boundaries, please contact me at my Honolulu or London office to set up an online Coaching Test Drive or click to learn more about my life coaching services.
I am a Board Certified Coach (BCC Coach), a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Hawaii and an Accredited CBT Therapist and Psychotherapist in the UK with over 16 years of experience. I have received advanced specialist training in Coaching, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Compassion Focused Therapy.