How to Set Boundaries
THE BOUNDARIES SERIES
Part II of III
Who wants to join me in setting some new boundaries?
In Monday’s post I talked about the 6 Signs You Need to Set Boundaries. Just to refresh – if you’re feeling angry, resentful, lost, out-of-control, and/or exhausted, you’re probably not getting some of your needs met. If you have unmet needs, it’s time to set some boundaries.
What Are Your Unmet Needs?
The following is one of my common patters: I make too many plans and then I start to feel anxious about not having enough down time. I want to cancel but feel I can’t let people down. I make myself go out but I feel pissy when I arrive, which isn’t how I want to show up for anyone. So when I feel resentful about my plans, it means my need for down time/alone time isn’t being met.
What is it that you’re not getting that’s leading you to feel unhappy or unwell?
Setting the Boundaries
There are two kinds of boundaries that need to be set, those with yourself, and those with
others. Let me explain. Let’s say you tell your friends that you can’t stay out past 11pm and they’re cool with that, no problem. But it’s 11:01pm and you’re still out and having fun. You decide to stay out until 1am because, what the hell. The next day, you’re exhausted, angry with yourself for staying out and feeling resentful that nothing’s going the way you want it to. You needed more rest and you didn’t get it because you didn’t set a boundary with yourself.
It’s not enough to set boundaries with other people, you need to set them with yourself too.
Set Boundaries With Yourself
The boundaries you set with yourself are the most important, because only you are responsible for yourself. You can’t expect other people to enforce your boundaries for you. Before you tell your friends that you need to leave at 11pm, you need to set that boundary with yourself, and then commit to it. You are the only one who can hold you accountable.
If it’s 11:01pm and you’re still having fun, you need to check in and remind yourself that you’re crossing a boundary that you’ve committed to. It’s up to you to respect the rules you’ve set out for yourself.
Another example: let’s say you have a friend who puts you down on a regular basis, but you don’t speak up because you’d rather not cause a scene. Before you set a boundary with your friend about how she speaks to you, you need to set a boundary with yourself around how you’re willing to be spoken to. Commit to yourself you will no longer accept anything but respectful communication, however you wish to define that. Commit to speaking up the next time she talks to you in a way that is upsetting to you.
What is the most important boundary you need to set with yourself?
Set Boundaries With Others
Once you’ve identified your unmet needs, set boundaries with yourself in order to get those needs met, it’s time to establish some new – or stronger – boundaries with others.
“When you _____________________________________ (describe the person’s behaviour),
I feel _____________________________________________ (describe the emotion you feel).
The result is ___________________________________ (describe the effect of that emotion).
Would you be willing to ______________________________________ (make your request)?”
Using this formula, you can communicate to someone how their behaviour is negatively affecting you without attacking their character. This is important, because it it’s much less
likely to create defensiveness. You then have the opportunity to ask for what you need, inviting them to change their behaviour and respect your new boundary.
Setting boundaries isn’t about being aggressive and laying down the law, so to speak. Setting boundaries is a loving thing you do for yourself. Do it firmly, yet kindly and with compassion – for yourself, and for those around you. It will reduce stress and resentment, and improve your quality of life and level of happiness. Totally worth it!