How to Set Healthy Boundaries for Yourself

healthy boundaries

How to Set Healthy Boundaries for Yourself

What are healthy boundaries?

Do you have ever find yourself completely exhausted? Defeated? Giving more than you have to give?  At times, these feelings are rooted in our perspective, stemming from having a “victim mentality.”  This mentality has many definitions, and for today, we will define it as “feeling powerless to affect your circumstances.”  However, powerlessness often comes from misunderstanding that we have the right to set boundaries.  You have the right to say no.  You have the right to prioritize your needs.  And you have the right to self-care. (Read Theresa Buch’s blog here on self-care tips!) You have the right to take care of you.  Healthy boundaries are not manipulative, mean, or controlling. They are honoring yourself, and supporting your needs, just as much as you support the ones you love.

How do I know what healthy boundaries I need?

One way to know what boundaries you need is to notice how you are feeling when you make commitments.  Does saying yes, cause your stomach to knot up? Or do you experience a tightness in your throat?  Wondering why you said “yes,” when deep down you wanted to say, “no?” We often make commitments to please others, or because saying no is uncomfortable.  That is normal, it is okay, and you have options to respond differently.

Another way to start learning what boundaries you may need, is by paying attention to the feeling of resentment.  What resentments do you carry?  We can easily blame and resent others for the requests that they make of us. Or for having too many responsibilities.  When really, we have options if we look for them.  There are many reasons that we feel resentful towards others, towards life, and maybe towards ourselves.  But this uncomfortable feeling can offer us a gift. A gift of awareness, informing us to protect ourselves and set some healthy boundaries. 

Setting healthy boundaries

How do we set healthy boundaries?  I wish it was simple, and sometimes it is. But for the times that we feel depleted and frustrated, we can dig a little deeper. The following is a guide to laying a strong foundation for setting healthy boundaries:

    1. This skill is a life long journey. It is a skill that we practice and develop over time. The ability and need to set boundaries will also change depending on our relationships, our health, and our life path. Do not expect to cross a finish line with this skill, but know that it is ever-evolving.
    2. Love yourself! Get to know yourself through self-care, and prioritize you and your needs.  This can feel tricky, as it can be hard to know what our needs are. But spend time with yourself, either by meditating, or going for a walk.  In these times, focus on you, and only you.
    3. Listen to your inner voice. When we live a life without boundaries, our inner voice becomes quiet and distant. As we improve our relationship with ourselves, our inner voice grows and becomes more clear.  We can “hear” its messages, through our emotions and physical sensations.  Pay attention, and notice what your body is saying to you.
    4. Start speaking your truth mindfully.  Life can shape us to say what we think others want to hear, in an attempt to avoid feeling guilty.  But don’t be fooled by false guilt.  This feeling is not our friend, and it shows up when we are fearful of hurting or disappointing others.  Speaking your truth is not mean, cruel, or selfish. It is quite the opposite, as it brings honesty and clarity into our relationships. Be mindful of speaking kindly.  For healthy communication tips, check out Dori Mages’ article.
    5. Practice, over and over again. Life will always bring you opportunities to set new boundaries, and every attempt is growth.  The measure of growth is not found in whether or not you succeed, but whether or not you are practicing.  Know that when you set new boundaries, or reinforce them, you are loving and protecting yourself.  It is an act of self-care.

Setting healthy boundaries is not always an easy process.  Just like learning to walk, we stumble, we fall, but we get back up again and keep working at it.  Some may not respond well to your new strength. That is okay!  You will also be surprised by those who respect the new you.  I encourage you to take on this challenge, as over time you will find that your values and actions come into greater alignment.  If you would like guidance and support on your personal or parenting journey, reach out to North Shore Family Services. We are happy to help you and your family grow in the direction that speaks to you.

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