Boundaries: Why they matter and how to set them
Setting boundaries is hard.
Despite knowing they're important, so many of us find ourselves burnt out, feeling walked all over, fearing disapproval, or constantly worried about letting others down. Especially those of us with people pleasing, perfectionist, codependent, or workaholic tendencies.
But here's the thing: boundaries are not only essential for our own self-care and self-worth, but they're also an important part of healthy, respectful, and fulfilling relationships. When we disregard our own needs and limits, we set ourselves up to feel depleted mentally, emotionally, and physically. We're then left disconnected from our values, our capacity for self-respect, and our individuality as a whole.
It's no wonder then that toxic relationships are often a consequence of being boundaryless.
So, here are three tips for learning how to set boundaries:
1 - Tune into your intuition
Our inner sense of wisdom can tell us a lot. if you're finding setting boundaries difficult, you've probably been silencing your intuition. You may have learned to put the needs of others first, to lead with fear and shame, instead of self-compassion, only reinforcing that your personal limits don't matter. Try to tap into and awaken your intuition. Practicing mindfulness and presence can help! Get curious about and ask yourself if you're feeling excited, open, expansive, or dread, resentment, discomfort when making a decision or agreeing to something. Improving your inner knowing will help you pay more attention to how you're feeling in the moment a boundary may need to be drawn.
2 - Learn to let go of how others respond
Not everyone will like your boundaries. People may get angry or disappointed. But that doesn't mean your boundary is wrong. In fact, an upset reaction to your boundary can signal that person may have been benefiting from your lack of boundaries. Ultimately, you're not responsible for how others feel. But you are responsible for your own wellbeing and how others can be a part of that. Trust that setting boundaries is crucial for healthy growth-oriented relationships, including the one you have with yourself. Honoring and respecting boundaries are relationship green flags, even if initially there is some rift.
3 - Make room for self-care
If you've overbooked yourself, you're feeling restless, anxious, drained, and at your max, it sounds like you need to take care of yourself! Give yourself the same attention, warmth, and compassion you so readily give to others. It starts with permission—permission to take time off, to say "no", to relax, to recharge, to schedule downtime, to let go of meeting the unrelentless expectations of others (or your own!) Boundaries are a form of self-care. So be kind to yourself, protect your energy, and see yourself as worthy and deserving of your own tending.
At the end of the day, boundaries don't make you mean. They make you deeply caring and considerate of yourself. See them as a gift—a form of courage. You get to teach others how to respect and relate to you by showing them what you will and will not tolerate. Those who dismiss your needs and boundaries are the ones you probably need boundaries with. Stick to self-respect. Life and relationships feel better that way.