How to Set Personal Boundaries
Living your life as an empowered person often requires the placement of boundaries – invisible “lines” across which you will not allow people or events to infringe upon your time or resources.
When you have clear inner boundaries in place, you know where you stand and you’re able to make decisions that support and nurture you. These decisions may include refusing extra obligations that you do not have the time or desire to fulfill, keeping a greater distance between you and people who tend to drain your energy, or insisting that others respect your personal time.
A disempowered person will usually find it difficult to set boundaries because they don’t feel that they have the right to do so, or the strength to stand firm in their decisions. Does that describe you?
If so, read on for some simple and painless ways to set firmer boundaries in your life:
1) First, understand that you have the right to set boundaries. This can be difficult if you struggle with low self-esteem or self-confidence. You might hesitate to set boundaries because you’re afraid that people won’t like you, or you’ll hurt someone’s feelings by refusing their requests for help. However, more often than not your own feelings will be hurt if you don’t set boundaries! You’ll find yourself agreeing to do things you really don’t want to do or don’t have time to do, and you’ll run yourself ragged trying to please everyone. Setting boundaries involves learning to love and respect yourself, and your time and resources.
Get into the habit of affirming your own value and worth, and strengthen your belief that you deserve to live a calmer, more peaceful life. Be committed to caring for yourself first, and then helping others as time allows. Remind yourself that you don’t have to feel guilty about not saving the world – do what you can and feel good about it.
2) Build up your courage. Learning to say “no” can be scary, but it’s important to believe that you have the strength and confidence to stand firm in your decisions. One good way to become more courageous is to understand that nothing bad will happen if you refuse extra obligations or favors that someone asks of you. Will they be disappointed? Probably. Will they stop speaking to you or get angry with you? Probably not. Except in extreme circumstances, most often the person will simply move on and ask someone else for help.
If you do happen to receive a strong negative reaction when saying no, ask yourself if it really matters to you? That may sound harsh, but you have to eventually realize that it’s not your job to make life easier for others – especially when doing so makes life more difficult for you! A person who gets angry about your unwillingness to help is probably a person who has gotten comfortable using you as a doormat. In those cases it’s best to nip the problem in the bud before it takes over your life.
3) Be firm, but nice. One of the reasons you may hesitate to say no is because you think it will make you look “bitchy” or selfish – but that can be avoided by finding a pleasant way to say it. Rather than saying brusquely, “No, I won’t help you with this,” you could say apologetically, “I’m really sorry, but I just can’t do it at this time. Maybe another time?” The majority of people will understand and not be upset. However, if you do receive resistance, that is the time to become more firm in your answers.
One of the hardest parts of setting boundaries is learning to be firm with yourself! You may be tempted to overextend yourself to help others, even when you know it wouldn’t be in your best interests. When that temptation arises, you’ll have to be able to override your desire to please and do what you know is best for yourself.