Boundaries are a tough but necessary part of having healthy relationships that flourish and evolve positively. Thinking up boundaries is usually easy. The challenge comes in enforcing them. Boundaries are difficult to stick to when we have empathy for others, want to keep the peace, or experience guilt.
The idea of boundaries is not to limit, per se—rather, for emotional and personal conservation.
Healthy boundaries can be had if we establish what our values are and can communicate to others how we expect to be treated effectively. If you’re not sure where to start with boundary setting, consider these as a foundation.
1. Give Guilt the Boot
You might be surprised to know how many decisions we make are rooted in guilt. Guilt is a silent driver, and we hand it the wheel when we don’t think about what it is that we do or why. If we continuously feel dissatisfied with our choices revolving around our time spent with other people, this is a good indicator that guilt is running the show.
Manage guilty feelings by thought replacement. Identify where you act from guilt, and replace the thoughts with self-empowering ones like “I don’t need to do this, because____,” and find the source of strength behind why you don’t need to feel guilty. Often, we feel guilty for not meeting the needs or desires of others, but ours are important.
2. Learn How to Say “No”
Saying no can be trying, especially if we have a part of us that doesn’t want to. We might be trying to keep the peace, or we might genuinely want to provide something we simply cannot. For example, let’s say it’s Sunday night, and you need to work in the morning.
This week only, your cousin is visiting from out of town and insists that you should have a night out, but you know that this cousin tends to be pushy in their desires and impulses. You may feel tempted to have a good time, but enforcing the boundary will work to conserve your physical energy, protect your priorities, and communicate your standards.
3. Expect Respect
It’s time to rethink the common verbiage, “respect is earned.” It makes sense that this must be reinforced if someone violates respect. But, there should be a baseline in which we expect to be given, as well as give to others.
Respect should be the common ground where individual boundaries are free to be expressed and regarded with care. Expecting it from others and providing it ourselves will serve everyone.
4. Have Financial Discipline
Are you one of those people that is loose with their spending habits despite having drawn the line? Are you one to be tempted to spend cash you swore you would save on social invitations or impulsive buys? Maybe you’re a lender, and have a hard time not offering your monetary advantage to a friend in need.
Whatever the case is, having financial discipline can be a healthy boundary. Financial distress can lead to a slew of problems that aren’t limited to the bank, but related to mental and emotional health in tandem. Troubling financial situations can infiltrate even the most solid relationships. Avoid financial turmoil by setting healthy boundaries with what you’re willing to do with your money, and stick to them.
5. Talk Time Truthfully
Be honest about your time. Time is arguably our most valuable resource, and it is not renewable. Setting boundaries with your time can help you to feel more in control and fulfilled with your daily experience. There are, of course, many instances in life where our time is dictated, like work, for example. The subtle slipping of our time occurs when we do not take control of how it is spent outside of where it is decided for us.
For example, if we have goals like getting in shape or getting housework done but no plans to meet them, we’re more likely to procrastinate when the time comes around. It will always be more tempting to accept an invitation to distract ourselves instead.
Similarly, it leaves room for others to say, “just worry about it later,” putting us in an endless cycle of putting our time aside. Instead, work against this by setting time aside, even if it’s specifically to do nothing and have no commitments. You’ll spend your time wisely and avoid resenting others.
The Importance of Boundaries
The alternate side of boundaries, while intended for preservation of self and relationships, is the inevitable pull of restraint. With balance, it can be healthy, but if it is applied too rigidly, it may end up suppressing the ability to grow and evolve. The key to creating a healthy balance of boundaries is flexibility.