Setting boundaries is key to success in relationships and in life.
The idea of setting boundaries can be scary if you’re afraid of rejection, but healthy boundaries can actually improve your relationships.
Not only that, but it will also help you overcome:
- Low self-esteem
- Compulsive behaviors
- And much more.
Let’s get started.
What Are Boundaries?
Put simply, boundaries are the places where one person ends and another begins. It’s where our values, beliefs, and emotions meet (and sometimes clash).
Boundaries are personal limits, and no two sets of boundaries are the same.
Just like you, your boundaries are unique as they are influenced by:
- Your culture and religion
- Your lived experiences
- Your family dynamics
- How extroverted or introverted you are
That is why communication and healthy boundary-setting are so important: clashing boundaries can lead to conflict, so clear communication is needed from both sides in order to make sure all personal boundaries are respected.
Boundaries affect every aspect of our lives. Some of the most common areas in which you may need to set boundaries include:
- Your physical body and personal space
- Your beliefs and opinions
- Your emotions
- Your time and energy
- Your ethics and values
- Your sexuality
- Your property and possessions
Rights — the Foundation of Setting Boundaries
If you’re not sure what your boundaries are, start by asking yourself what you consider your rights to be.
For example, you have the right to:
- Express your thoughts and emotions without fear of judgment
- Ask for your needs to be met
- Say no without feeling guilty
- Prioritize your self-care before caring for others
- Be treated with respect
- Decide what to do with your body
- Feel safe
Become familiar with your rights and integrate them as truth. This will make it easier to defend them and stop losing energy to people-pleasing.
Use Your Values for Setting Healthy Boundaries
Boundaries are also closely related to your values. To identify your values, consider what’s important to you in different areas of your life.
For example, in relationships, your values might include:
- Quality time spent together
- Common interests and goals
- Independence and time spent separately
- Sexual preferences
- How you like to spend your free time
At work, your values might include:
- Having a healthy work-life balance
- Having creative freedom
- Not being contacted for work issues during your free time
- Feeling your ideas and opinions are valued and included
- Feeling trusted and independent in your work
What Are the Benefits of Setting Boundaries?
You may be wondering why setting boundaries is important and how it can improve your life.
Healthy boundaries are essential for your mental and emotional wellbeing. They ensure that you feel safe and respected in any given situation and with any person and help you get your needs met.
Here are four of the main benefits of setting healthy boundaries:
1. Boundaries Improve Your Self-Esteem and Sense of Self
When you define your boundaries, you define yourself in relation to others.
This means you establish what is acceptable and what is unacceptable to you, as well as where your responsibilities begin and end.
Setting boundaries also means that you prioritize your self-care and wellbeing, contributing to improved self-esteem and better energy levels.
2. Boundaries Teach Others to Respect You
Setting boundaries is an act of self-respect. When you respect yourself, others will respect you more, too.
When you set healthy boundaries, you teach people how you want them to treat you.
Sometimes, you may feel someone is treating you disrespectfully, but to them, there is nothing wrong with their behavior. This is often because their boundaries are different from yours, and they simply don’t realize.
This is why clear communication is crucial for establishing healthy boundaries.
3. Boundaries Improve Your Relationships
You may be worried that setting boundaries could have a negative impact on your relationships — especially with your romantic partner.
Fortunately, there is nothing to worry about because boundaries actually help you grow closer.
Weak boundaries in a relationship can lead you to feel resentful.
You may lose yourself in the relationship and feel that you no longer have any personal space. You might even feel uncomfortable or unsafe with your partner.
Setting healthy boundaries lets your partner know what is acceptable to you and what is not. This creates a safe space in which you can grow together.
And if your partner does not accept your attempts to establish boundaries, be warned: it may be a red flag.
4. Setting Boundaries Preserves Your Energy
If you don’t defend your boundaries, you end up putting others’ needs before your own, leaving you depleted and resentful.
When you set healthy boundaries, you prioritize your needs. This allows you to fill your own cup and maintain your energy levels.
Boundaries also help prevent you from taking on others’ problems and emotions, which can be exhausting.
What Are the Signs of Weak Boundaries?
So, how can you tell if you need to establish firmer boundaries?
Weak boundaries can lead to:
- Overwhelm and burnout
- Compulsive behavior such as overeating, drinking or overworking
- Feeling unable to express your emotions or opinions for fear of judgment or retribution
- Weak sense of self
- Lack of purpose or direction
If any of these sound familiar, it’s likely that you need to learn to set healthy boundaries.
Luckily for you, I have compiled the 3 best boundary-setting exercises that will help you start setting boundaries and improving your life today.
The 5 Best Boundary-Setting Exercises
1. Know Your Rights
It’s impossible to set healthy boundaries if you don’t know what your boundaries are. This first exercise will help you to identify them.
Take some time to consider your rights and write them down. Think about different relationships and situations in your life and your rights in each of them.
For example, with your partner, you have the right to express yourself, feel safe physically and emotionally, and express your sexuality as you desire.
At work, your rights may include not being discriminated against or contacted outside of working hours.
With your family, you may feel it’s your right to put your needs first before helping others.
Listing your rights is a powerful exercise as it will help you to identify areas of your life where your boundaries are weak and need to be strengthened.
2. Find Your Core Values
We all have different personal values, and they are the foundation of our boundaries, so it’s essential to get clear about your values for successful boundary-setting.
In your relationship, your values may include having shared interests or working towards common goals.
At work, your values may include having a healthy work-life balance or a strong company culture.
Your family values may include spending quality time together or even limiting the amount of time spent together.
Write down your ten most important values, then narrow them down to 3 or 4 core values. Keep these values in mind at all times.
This will help you determine what you can accept or tolerate and what you will not accept in any given situation.
3. Establish Your Boundaries
Once you are clear on your core values, it’s time to turn them into boundaries.
For each core value, ask yourself the following 3 questions:
1. What will I allow given this value?
2. What will I tolerate given this value?
3. What will I not allow given this value?
Write your answers down for future reference.
4. Communicate Your Boundaries
Communicating your boundaries lets the other person know what your expectations of them are.
Since we all have different boundaries, we all cross the line with one another sometimes.
Usually, it’s unintentional, so letting someone know where your boundaries are will help them avoid crossing them in the future.
Using nonviolent communication to establish your boundaries is essential.
Do not approach the conversation from a place of blame as this will most likely lead to conflict.
Instead, take a problem-solving approach.
You are simply sharing your boundaries with the other person to inform them of how their actions cross your boundaries.
Share how the other person’s actions impact you and explain how this relates to your core values.
For example, you could say your boss: “One of my core values is having a healthy work-life balance so that I can spend time with my family. When you ask me to work overtime without warning, I feel that crosses a boundary and comprises my core value.”
This will help them understand what your boundaries are without becoming defensive — which means they will be much more receptive to taking your message on board.
5. Maintain Your Boundaries
Life is messy — especially when it comes to relationships — and people can still cross your boundaries from time to time, even after you have clearly communicated them.
When dealing with crossed boundaries, keep your core values at the forefront of your mind and refer to them during the conversation.
For example, you could say to your partner: “I love you and I want our relationship to be successful.
Since cooperation is one of my core values, we need to cooperate in order to succeed.
When you leave the dirty dishes in the sink after I make dinner, I feel you are not cooperating and that makes me sad. How can we cooperate better?”
This is a much more constructive approach that will lead to less conflict and greater harmony and understanding in the relationship.
So, there you have the 5 best boundary-setting exercises. Don’t forget to download the PDF to have easy access to them at all times.
Have you learned to successfully set and maintain healthy boundaries? Let me know how in the comments.
Or perhaps you’re just starting out on your boundary-setting journey. If so, let me know if you try these exercises.