Last Updated on April 29, 2021 by Shane Walker
Setting boundaries and keeping them is an essential skill in finding balance and happiness in your life. Boundaries also help you manage stress, anxiety, and frustration much more effectively. Without them, however, you let others control your time, energy, and emotions. Because of these reasons, it is extremely important that you learn to set boundaries. Here are 5 simple steps.
How To Set Boundaries
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1. Define Your Limits
You can’t set boundaries if you have no idea what they are. You have to be clear about where you stand. A great way to do this is to identify the things in your life that make you feel stressed and uncomfortable and even feel resentment. What irritates you and what makes you feel bad? What do you feel uncomfortable doing? Who gives you anxiety? The answers to these questions are clues to identify where you must draw the line.
Take some time to write down the answers to these questions. Next to each of these answers rate the impact it has on your life. 1 to 10. 1 is a minor irritation, and 10 is life-changing. For those that you rate over 5, decide that you will create boundaries and set limits. It’s okay to set boundaries for things below 5, but definitely create them for items above 5.
The final step in defining your limits is to formulate a clear statement for each. For instance, you could write, “I will no longer lend money to family.” Or, “I will no longer work late.” It may also help to include the why as well. “I will no longer lend money to the family because it frustrates me that they do not feel obligated to pay it back.” Or, “I will no longer work late because my co-worker takes advantage of my kindness and work ethic.”
Have this written list of limits handy and refer to it often.
2. Set Boundaries By Being Clear and Direct
Once you decide on your limits and what you will no longer tolerate, it’s time to be clear and direct. Do not assume that people should “just know”. People are usually so focused on their own wants and needs that they are totally oblivious to what others want and need. When it’s time to hold the line, be clear and direct with them. Say to them, “no I am no longer working late,” “I am no longer lending money to family,” “I am no longer committing to anything on Saturday mornings.”
Do not feel obligated to give reasons for your boundaries. If you choose to do so, that is fine, but understand that you owe no one an explanation. Just be clear and direct on what your boundaries are. Be clear to your co-worker, be clear to your spouse, and be clear to your family.
3. Let Go of Guilt
Set boundaries and keep them by letting go of the guilt. If you feel guilty for putting your boundaries first, then it will be harder to keep them. You must learn to give yourself permission to have boundaries. Here are a couple of ways to let go of the guilt.
Question Your Feelings of Guilt
Do you really have a reason to feel guilty? Will you really hurt the other person if you set boundaries with them? Is their day or life really going to be ruined if you do not give in to their requests? Just by questioning why you feel guilty, you begin to put things into perspective.
Give Up Power
Stop feeling guilty by realizing you do not have any power over other people’s emotions. Everyone is responsible for their own emotions, even you. So if someone feels angry or disappointed because you set boundaries, then that is on them. Not you.
4. Be Assertive
Setting boundaries means nothing if you do not stand up for yourself and learn to be assertive. People who are used to crossing your boundaries have a difficult time hearing “no”. They will press you until they get a “yes”. Being assertive will help you refrain from giving in to them. A great way to be assertive is to remember your whys. Why did you set boundaries in the first place? Remember how it makes you feel to let others take advantage of you. Draw from those pain points to help you become more assertive.
Being assertive is a simple step when it comes to setting boundaries but that doesn’t make it easy. Assertiveness takes time and effort and it’s not something you can learn overnight. If you struggle with being assertive, our Being Assertive Guide will help.
5. Start Small
If setting boundaries and keeping them seems like a daunting task, then start small. Think about a small boundary and work to hold the line on that one. Just like every other skill, it takes time and practice. Once you learn to maintain low threat boundaries, move up to something bigger.
Here are some ways to start small:
Wait To Get Back To Them
A low threat way to set boundaries is to wait a little longer to return calls, texts, or emails. By not getting back to them right away you are letting them know that they are not your priority in the moment in a low threat way. You also give yourself some time to prepare to be assertive if necessary.
Make Your Weekends A Work Free Zone
If work calls during the weekends or your off-time, either refuse to answer or tell them you’ll take care of it on Monday. By setting this boundary your work will begin to understand that even though you take your job seriously, it is not your only priority.
Give Yourself Some Time
If you are not comfortable saying “no” right away and holding the line on your boundary at the moment, say “let me get back to you.” This is a small, low threat way to stay true to your boundaries. Then later, you can get back to them with your answer.
Setting boundaries is extremely important in life. Remember to set boundaries effectively, you must define your limits, be clear and direct, and let go of guilt. You also need to be assertive and start small if you have to. These tips are simple, but not necessarily easy. Take your time and practice, but keep at it. You can apply these strategies in your relationships, at work, or wherever you need boundaries in your life.
What boundaries do you need to set? Let us know in the comments below.