Setting boundaries with people can be tricky. (Mostly because they prefer you all spineless and easy-go-lucky.)
Setting boundaries is an act of self-love. Through our words, actions and what behaviors we allow from others, we are continuously teaching people how to treat us, and boundaries are clear indicators of what is okay and what is not okay.
Boundaries help you to protect yourself, your feelings, your energy, and to know your authentic self. And if you keep firm in your boundaries, you’ll attract and keep the kinds of relationships that support the real you. Allowing people to treat you in ways that feel disrespectful or hurtful to you does a great disservice to everyone involved.
So how does one go about setting boundaries? Is there a right time and a wrong time to set a boundary? How do you safely stick to your boundary when someone has violated it?
Setting boundaries with people is not always easy! It can feel scary at first, because we don’t know how the other person is going to react.
You can tell it’s time to set a boundary with someone by the way you feel. If you have feelings such as frustration, sadness, irritation, anger, exhaustion, etc. because of the way someone is treating you, then it might be time to set a boundary with them.
It’s important to first become clear for yourself, what behavior is unacceptable to you and why. Writing it down is usually very helpful. Then formulate a clear sentence or two stating what the boundary is. Your boundaries don’t need to have long, drawn-out explanations and justifications to go with them. A simple statement is fine, such as: “I find it unacceptable for you to shout at me. Don’t speak that way to me again.”
Once you’re clear on what your needs are, then it’s easier to articulate them to someone else.
There are always three components to setting a boundary with someone:
1. State the boundary.
2. Repeat it again if it gets violated. (And it usually does! Human nature makes people test boundaries: ‘Did she really mean that?’)
3. Put a consequence in place if it’s violated yet again.
So in our example, if the person speaks to you again in a manner you find unacceptable, you would tell them the boundary again and let them know what consequence will be in place if it happens again. Then if they violate the boundary yet again, you would follow-through with the consequence.
For example: “It’s unacceptable for you to shout at me. Don’t speak to me that way. If you do it again I’m going to leave the room.” It’s really important to set boundaries only when you are clear and serious about your needs, and strong enough to follow through with a consequence if the boundary is violated. If you don’t follow through, then your boundary is as good as nothing.
Remember, you teach people how to treat you, and boundaries can be very clear and strong indicators of what’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
If you find it extremely difficult to consider setting boundaries with people, then you might like to work with a professional in helping you to build up your self-esteem. People with loose or no boundaries often have a low sense of self-worth and could benefit from working on strengthening their feelings of worthiness of having their needs met.
But this has to come from you first. And setting healthy boundaries is one very distinct, strong way to show yourself and the world that you’re worthy of being treated fairly and with respect.