It is important for every individual to set boundaries; it is how people take care of themselves. Setting boundaries is a healthy way to build and maintain relationships with ourselves and with others. Just because it’s healthy, doesn’t make it easy. In fact, setting boundaries is one of my most difficult tasks. In fact, it’s something that I usually fail at doing. I don’t really ever say “no” to others. My automatic answer is always “yes”, even when I practice saying “no” and other similar responses. I don’t know if this is because I’m a people pleaser or because I’m scared to turn someone down, although those reasons seem to be related. I’ve been practicing saying “no” to people when they ask me something. This doesn’t mean I should turn people down all the time; I just need to find balance between saying “yes” and “no”. The following are techniques I use to work toward setting healthy boundaries in my life:
- Know your comfort level. The first step to setting boundaries is to know what you are and are not willing to do. You have to know your own limits, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Knowing yourself and what stresses you out will allow you to know what boundaries to set.
- Practice, practice, practice. I practice saying “no” and giving other responses to questions I know someone is about to ask me. I practice having multiple answers to a question or situation.
- Ask for help. I usually ask my mom or my husband to help me determine how to respond to certain situations. My mom helps me practice my responses. It’s not often that I am able to set a boundary, but when I did a couple of weeks ago, I was so proud of myself and couldn’t wait to share it with my mom; she was excited and proud of me. Asking for help is not a weakness; it helps us become stronger.
- Begin small. When you start small, it can either be with a simple boundary or by setting a boundary with someone you’re comfortable with. Some boundaries can be as simple as stating what you want; I’m not good at doing that either, but I’m working on it.
- Long explanations are not necessary. For example, if someone asks you out to lunch, it’s okay to just say, “I can’t make it, I’m busy then, but thank you for the offer.” The more intricate your reasoning is, the more questionable it appears. There is no need to justify yourself to everyone. You should be comfortable with your response, but you don’t have to make sure everyone else is okay with it.
- Stand by your boundaries. Once we finally set boundaries, we need to stand by our decisions. It’s important, but not easy, to stand up for ourselves. I’m still working on it, but eventually I’ll get there.
- Stay positive. This is something that is extremely difficult; it’s easier said than done. The first step is to stay away from negative people. When someone you’re with is negative, it’s okay to ask them to change the subject. Walking away is also okay. Our minds go negative so easily, so every time I’m negative, I try to find at least one positive thing.
- Put yourself first. Remember, you are important. Your wants and needs are significant. I often don’t stick to my boundaries because I feel guilty or shameful. However, I’ve found out that there’s nothing wrong with putting yourself first. It’s part of taking care of you.
These techniques have been very helpful to me. Setting boundaries is probably one of the things I struggle with the most. I’ve gotten better at it, somewhat, but I still need a lot of practice. I’ll get better with time. In this past two month, I’ve said “no” twice, that’s huge for me.