The Skillful Art of setting Healthy Boundaries
The art of protecting your emotional space by setting healthy boundaries
Boundaries, boundaries, and boundaries; you would have probably heard a lot about setting boundaries, protecting your energy and emotional space. However, it’s not always simpler to set healthy boundaries especially with our family or loved ones. Drawing a line can feel offensive to someone but it’s important to know your limits as well as propagate the same.
Unfortunately, we’re never taught how to set healthy boundaries for ourselves and even how not to cross one. This is a skill that takes time to learn and it’s okay to give yourself that time. Once you’re aware of your feelings, you will be able to know how far can you tolerate something.
Having healthy boundaries means “knowing and understanding what your limits are,” says Dr. Gionta.
As always, let me tell you my personal experience on setting boundaries. While I was in a corporate job and working on my side hustle at the same time; I knew that ‘time’ was a limited resource for me and I had to use it wisely. However, during those days I would crave true friendships, and when I found one; I would do anything to protect our bond.
This anything also included giving myself to that person. I had no boundaries and as a result, I always used to say ‘yes’ whenever my friend needed me without checking my own mental and emotional space. This made me feel super miserable and anxious because I was always available. I was so afraid of losing my friend that I never thought about drawing that line and communicate my needs. This is exactly what happens when you fail to set healthy boundaries. Let’s get into this in detail:
Why do you need to set healthy boundaries?
My one-line answer to this would be – to protect your mental and emotional peace. Seriously, if you’re not setting clear boundaries; your health is definitely going to suffer. Sometimes we fail to do so because we’re afraid of offending someone, breaking the bond, letting go of the relationship.
We have that fear within of not being a villain in someone’s story which keeps on telling us to say yes for everything. But get this, it’s your responsibility to protect your space and take a stand for yourself.
We all have our own limits and it’s okay to make it clear and build a healthy relationship based on peace and joy instead of insecurities. Here’s why you need to set healthy boundaries:
1. To improve your self-esteem and relationships
We have perceived the idea that boundaries mean separation or isolation. Whereas it actually means having respect in relationships, knowing and communicating through each other’s needs, giving space, making yourself a priority, practicing self-care, having me-time, focusing on your career, growth and so much more.
Setting healthy boundaries doesn’t mean disrespecting your relation or offending someone. It simply means that you’re well aware of your limits and you cannot cross that. If someone you’re in a relationship with respects and understands you, he/she will definitely respect your boundaries as well.
2. Gives space to grow and be ourselves
It really feels suffocating when people invade your space. I personally don’t like even when someone’s looking at my phone while I’m just randomly scrolling. People need space to grow and by this, it doesn’t mean they don’t love or value you. They need the emotional freedom to feel their feelings, to be vulnerable, to be themselves.
3. Helps to find emotional balance
Setting healthy boundaries helps in conserving our emotional energy. It’s so important to be aware of your emotional energy and to whom you’re lending it. You can be emotionally fit to help your friend in need but you can totally draw a line when you no longer can tolerate the heavy emotional lifting.
Understand this, your boundaries can totally be different from your friends or anyone else; this is not your concern to ponder upon. Just be aware of your limits, your potential to serve, and set boundaries accordingly. It’s okay to not be present always when people need you. You, as a vessel, need to fill yourself before serving others.
How to know and understand what your limits are?
This is where we get mostly stuck because we are unaware of our limits. You can know your limits and set boundaries when you’re mindful of your feelings. Are you feeling uneasy or uncomfortable in someone’s company? Is their presence making you anxious and nervous? Are they making you feel numb? This is precisely where you need to pause and sketch a fine line.
Here’re some red flags:
- Feeling uncomfortable and uneasy
- Discomfort around their company
- Stress and anxiety
- Guilt or fear
- Less worthy or low self-esteem
Your limits are whatever you can tolerate and this doesn’t mean you have to keep pushing yourself to tolerate more.
The types of boundaries you can set:
- Emotional space
- Time and energy
- Mental peace
- Culture, Religion, Ethics
Setting healthy boundaries could be intimidating; however, it’s solely your responsibility to work for yourself and set your standards. Let’s dive into defining your boundaries:
How to define your boundaries:
Our boundaries differ as per our culture or heritage, life experiences, or the way of our upbringing. This is not something you can compare with someone else. People have different boundaries and we definitely need to learn and advocate ourselves to respect those limits. You can always define your boundaries through self-reflection when you know what your values are or what you stand for.
1. Tune into your feelings
This is by far the best way to define and understand your boundaries. When you’re aware of how you feel around someone; you can figure out how to define your boundaries. Are you alert while noticing the red flags? How does that make you feel? Oftentimes, we’re nervous and stressed in someone’s presence and usually, this is because they fail to honor us or appreciate our work.
This used to happen with me the whole time while working in a toxic job. I was literally walking on eggshells around few colleagues and that made me realize how necessary it is to set healthy boundaries. When someone does something that makes you feel uncomfortable; they definitely have crossed their boundaries and you need to make it clear right away.
2. Know your rights
We are granted the right to protect ourselves from all kinds of abuse. Be aware of your rights in order to protect yourself. Once you know your rights, it’s easier to honor them and stand for yourself. Here’s what I believe:
- I have the right to be treated with love and respect.
- I have the right to prioritize self-care without feeling guilty
- I have the right to say no to others’ expectation
- I have the right to feel detached from someone’s heavy emotional lifting
- I have the right to be unavailable yet being authentic
- I have the right to accept my mistakes and keep learning
- I have the right to find my joy even when no one quite understands it
Go and list down your rights and know what you stand for.
3. Follow your intuition
Oftentimes, we fail to hear that inner voice telling us to protect/ safeguard ourselves by setting boundaries. It’s because we don’t quite take ourselves seriously. Your inner self knows what’s happening and it’s sending you signs to work on it but instead; you try to ignore it.
Be aware of your body movements and how your body responds to someone’s behavior. Maybe, your hands are sweating in the presence of someone or you’re just finding a way to run when asked about your career in a room full of your family members. This is your instinct, your gut yelling at you to create some healthy boundaries.
4. Be aware of your values
Another important aspect of defining healthy boundaries is to know your values. What do you stand for? Make a list of values you deeply believe in and figure out the important ones that stand out for you. These are something you cannot afford to trade with and can totally set boundaries whenever invaded.
Think about how often your beliefs or values are challenged or mistreated; this is how you will know how strong or weak your boundaries are. Once you know your limits and have defined your boundaries; here’s how you can mindfully draw the line and become aware when someone crosses it.
How to set healthy boundaries with confidence:
1. Be direct
There are people who won’t understand or respect your boundaries and to them; you need to be firm with your communication. Be assertive and let them know that they have crossed the line and it has affected you. Being direct or putting your boundaries straight doesn’t mean you’re being rude.
Due to cultural background and different upbringing; it’s challenging to understand someone’s boundaries. Especially in a romantic relationship, at times you need to be direct and clear on how much time you need for yourself or how much you both can spend together. This gives space in the relationship for the person to grow. Use polite language but at the same time, be firm.
2. Practice self-awareness
It’s easier to set healthy boundaries when you’re aware of your feelings. Know yourself by spending some alone time and figure out what you actually want. When you’re aware of yourself, you will become more clear on what’s important for you and what you should stand for.
If the work you do brings in more joy and is in alignment with your values; you will need to set some healthy boundaries regarding fixed routine or dedicated time for that work. This is possible only when you’re aware of what you wish to become in this single lifetime.
The more you know yourself the more you will understand the kind of people you want to be with and the kind of life you want to create.
Here’re the deep 100 questions that will help you to re-discover yourself.
3. Prioritize self-care
Often we’re scared or intimidated for putting ourselves first and making self-care a priority. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and set the boundaries that work for you. Practicing self-care also means not taking any shit from people and respecting your worth.
When you’re spending more time with yourself while practicing self-care; you get a clear idea of what you stand for and your need for setting boundaries becomes stronger.
4. Learn to say ‘NO’
Quit being people pleaser and learn to say ‘no’ often. Your people will totally understand and respect your ‘no’ when you make it firm and clear. Stop feeling guilty for rejecting something just because it invades your boundaries. You need to speak up for yourself though it seems daunting.
Trust me, the second time you do so; it will make you feel super confident and proud for doing this work. If someone asks you for a glass of drink or for a party when you don’t feel like going, you can simply say ‘no’ without giving any further explanation.
5. Protect your spaces
You set boundaries for physical, emotional, and mental space when invading them makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy. You can have your personal locker for all your things and safe-guard it by a secret code. If you’re scared of someone reading your journal; use a digital one or lock it or maybe keep it in your safe.
There are times when people don’t understand these little things you need privacy with; however, you need to be assertive and put your thought out there about your space.
This also includes having social media boundaries. Use scheduler and keep your colleagues and boss updated about your routine + fixed hours, switch to automated replies for emails when on vacation, make sure that you can’t be available 24*7 for the company you work for and this all can be possible if you communicate your boundaries well. I made this worst mistake of not setting healthy boundaries while working and it literally spoiled my mental health.
Here’s the story of why I left my toxic job.
6. Seek support
Never hesitate to ask for help because we clearly aren’t experts in setting healthy boundaries and it’s okay to seek some external support. You can always take help from your friends and family in practicing boundary setting or maybe can hold each other accountable for the same.
In another case, you can also form a counseling group maybe at your workplace or church circle, and discuss the same. Further, you can reach out to a therapist to help you guide in setting boundaries or read some books on the same.
7. Start small
Practicing boundaries take time for you as well as for others, hence it’s okay to take baby steps. Learning something new always takes time so give yourself some grace and start with something that doesn’t pressurize you or puts you in a tough situation. However, you can always add up to it and raise your bar once you’re aware of your feelings. Setting boundaries need courage and it’s okay to take time to be brave.
The art of setting healthy boundaries – conclusion
When you’re learning to set healthy boundaries; it’s equally important to respect someone else’s boundaries. Be aware of the warning signs and know when others need help and support. Always remember, boundaries are here to help us and not separate or make us feel aloof.
I can totally get it if this information seems overwhelming right now, but trust me; you need this for a healthy life/ relationships. Take these tips and let them stay with you, but start somewhere. There’s so much power in showing up for yourself.
I so hope that this piece would guide, encourage you to take a stand for yourself and set some healthy boundaries. If you have any questions or wish to discuss the same, I would love to carry on the conversation. Do drop them in the comments below and stay in touch.
Sign up for the weekly encouragement letter and help yourself grow. You’re so welcomed in our mindful community.