Why and How to Set Boundaries For Yourself And Those Around You

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Boundaries are an important area of life, but rarely spoken about.

Boundaries can be a set of standards or values you have for yourself that that dictate the quality of life you choose to lead.

They can also be a set of basic "rules" that a healthy relationship plays by that strengthens the relationship and energises both parties.

So how do you set simple boundaries for yourself and your significant others that add value to your life and those around you?

This is an interesting area because we all have subconscious personal boundaries, but very rarely do we take the time to crystallise these boundaries for our own benefit, much less, do we communicate them to our significant others for the long term benefit of a relationship.

Let's take a look at the real meaning of boundaries and how to create them whilst still being the person people know and love you to be.

What Does Setting Boundaries Mean?

When you set boundaries for yourself, you identify a set of basic standards or values for your life that guide your everyday behaviours. 

This will give you the clarity and space you need to see what truly makes you happy and to be a better person for yourself and those you care about around you.  

It can also help you to find compatibility with significant others and friends - because relationships are more energised when they're shared by people who have similar standards and values.

When it comes to relationships, there's an old adage that say, "familiarity breeds contempt".  Which basically means, the more we become used to the behaviour of another or are in a relationship where there's no clear boundaries or "rules", it can either lead to conflict, ongoing silent suffering, or the relationship can eventually fade or die.

On the flip side, understanding someones basic set of rules or standards, can help you to know their triggers, strengths and weaknesses and values - and if you care about that person, you can play to their positives which can energise the relationship.

Why Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries for yourself can guide you in terms of your health, social circle, intimate relationship, finances and productivity.  They're important because they are like rudder that helps you to sail your boat where you want to go.

Boundaries aren't meant to keep people away, as much as they help people understand what you require to feel happy, safe and fulfilled.  And when you're in this state often, you're a better person for those around you.

What’s more, people who truly care for you will want to do what they can to see you happy. 

So boundaries are not at all selfish. Ultimately, they exist to help bring you closer to the people you care about. 

Consider all the times in your life when a person crossed a personal boundary. Maybe it was a physical boundary, like when a friend hugs you and you're not much of a hugger. Or perhaps a family member texts you dozens of times a day and becomes irate if you don't or cannot reply. These are two relatively simple examples of when you would want to set boundaries.

And understand: these boundaries are not in place because you do not like the person. On the contrary, you'd put boundaries in place to ensure the relationship not only survives, but thrives.

Think of setting boundaries as a form of self care for you and the people in your life. 

Learn more: Why Healthy Relationships for Friends and Family Are Essential for Self Care.

How to Set Boundaries

Of course, once you understand the value of setting boundaries or a new set of standards for yourself, the next step is knowing how to set boundaries.

The good news is setting boundaries doesn't have to be awkward; not if the boundaries are set with empathy and resolve--and not just from the other person, but from you as well. After all, the person to whom you are asking for boundaries has thoughts and feelings of his or her own.

To create some boundaries for yourself, start by listing the top 3 areas in your life right now that you need to improve.  It could be your productivity, physical body, your intimate relationship or finances etc.  Now focus on one of these areas and ask yourself, who would I need to be in order to master that area of your life.

For example, a person who has let their physical health decline, might say that they would need to be more disciplined with exercise, more conscious with the food they eat, and that they need to take ownership of their health rather than constantly frequenting their doctor's office or pharmacy. 

Once you get clarity around "who" you would need to be, putting into place basic daily action steps and standards is a natural progression from that, because you're making the choices from the place of the persona you aspire to be - not your current self. 

By communicating these new choices with someone you care about with conviction about why it's important to you, you are communicating that you want to improve yourself by setting some personal non-negotiables for your life. 

Over time, your actions will either have an inspired effect on the other person and they'll follow your lead or they'll simply consciously respect your boundaries. 

Sometimes, bringing boundaries into an existing established relationship can be difficult because of the familiarity equation, but if it's important to you don't let it stop you.  Someone who truly cares about you will be supportive of your boundaries, if not, the relationship may eventually fade if there's not a lot in common anymore.

Lead with Empathy

Let's look at the texting example.

If someone texts you excessively and you're trying to be productive, you can set a boundary with empathy here.

Simply let them know you'd love to chat after 4pm once you can give full attention to the chat with them.  Or ask them, "Hey, I'd love to chat either 4pm today or 8am tomorrow when I'm not snowed under.  What works for you?"

This let's them know that you want to connect with them in a way where you can have a meaningful conversation and give your undivided attention. On the other hand, you have also subtlety conveyed a boundary, because you have specified a time window and the fact that you are busy in between.  

Be Resolved, But Also, Patient

Don't back down from the boundaries you are trying to establish. It may take a little time for them to stick, especially if you've been letting people cross them for some time, but don't abandon your resolve. 

Reiterate your boundaries if need be, but don't abandon your principles. Just like our bodies and societies require order to be at their best, the people you care for will be happier with some structure too. 

Just remember to be empathetic.

Sometimes You May Have To Say No

Following along with our previous point, when you're learning how to set boundaries, you're going to have to become comfortable with saying no to others sometimes.

Maybe it's saying no to a family event that you're too tired to attend, or to some other commitment. It doesn’t not matter if you have no other plans in mind and just want to be at home soaking in a lavender oil bath: that is enough of a reason. 

The truth is, there is enough in our lives we have to do and the load of these commitments can be a burden. This makes it even more vital to have the option to relieve ourselves from non-essential obligations when we need to. 

Learn more: Stress Management Without Harmful Addictions.

Understand, You're Not Always Going to Make Everyone Happy

Once you have your boundaries set, people aren't always going to be happy about them. In fact, you may get some push back. However, it will be worth it in the long run. You set boundaries because something someone was doing or saying was making you deeply unhappy. If you back down, you back yourself into the corner you just fought your way out of. 

The new you, the stronger you who knows yourself, will take some getting used to for some. And perhaps, others will never get used to it. 

But that's okay. To quote the old adage, The people who mind don't matter. And the people who matter don't mind. 

Learn more: How to Heal Toxic Relationships Before They Break. 

Learning how to set your boundaries is not about getting your way--or it shouldn’t be. Remember, your boundaries are the limits of what you can bear, and there is a lot of room in those limits for compromise and common ground. 

Tolman Self Care.

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