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12 Tips on How to Set Healthy Boundaries

How to Set Healthy Boundaries | Hopeful Panda

Learning how to set healthy boundaries is essential for maintaining your identity and building meaningful relationships. Establishing boundaries is crucial for your mental and emotional well-being.

Boundaries create a safe space for you. However, when you’re stuck in an abusive environment as a child, you have no choice but to give up that safe space as a way to protect yourself.

Therefore, many people who have gone through childhood abuse or trauma were conditioned to ignore or violate their own boundaries in order to survive their toxic environment.

Part of healing involves learning how to recreate that safe space. It involves learning how to identify, communicate, and enforce your boundaries. It will be difficult, but with practice, it can be achieved.

In this post, I will discuss what healthy boundaries are, why they’re important, and how to set healthy boundaries in different aspects of your life.


The Lack of Boundaries

I grew up in a home where personal space and privacy weren’t respected. Locked doors were discouraged, even for bathrooms. Everyone would walk in on everyone doing their business. It wasn’t till I was older that I started locking the door only to have my mother continuously knock, asking, “What’s so sexy you don’t want me to see?”

But boundaries aren’t just physical; they can also be emotional.

Talking about my needs or feelings was always met with criticisms or complaints. My feelings were often dismissed or ignored because they were a “burden”. Meanwhile, even as a child, I was expected to cater to my mother’s every whim because her needs and desires take priority over all else. And if I don’t do it, I get punished.

If you grew up in a strict, abusive, or dysfunctional home like me, it’s likely that you rarely or never experienced what it’s like to have personal boundaries. You may not know what it is or why they’re necessary for a healthy life.

The lack of personal boundaries may indicate a lack of an identity or an identity that’s enmeshed with someone else. This is problematic because you end up lacking individuality and autonomy.

This likely carries into your adult and present relationships where you may have trouble voicing your needs, desires, and what you’re not okay with. In other words, your lack of boundaries may allow other people to push your buttons and take advantage of you.

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

Boundaries are guidelines, rules, limits, or expectations created to identify reasonable, safe, and permissible ways for other people to treat you. It also involves your response or the consequences you’ll carry out if and when those limits are overstepped or violated.

However, it’s important to note that setting boundaries don’t mean controlling the other person. You can’t “set a boundary” around someone else’s behavior. Boundaries are for you.

Ultimately, boundaries are about your own behavior. If someone treats you in a way that you’re not comfortable with, you are the only one who can uphold that boundary because you can control your own actions, not theirs.

Setting boundaries let people know where you stand and where you draw the line. It lets you make a statement about what you need, how you feel, and make a point about what is not okay.

Boundaries can range from super strict to nonexistent. Healthy boundaries typically fall somewhere in the middle.

Someone with healthy boundaries makes their expectations clear and is able to indicate what they are and aren’t okay with. This helps establish what behavior and treatments they will accept and tolerate from other people and what they will not.

As mentioned before, boundaries can be physical or emotional. Physical boundaries are what you’ll allow people to do in your physical presence and inside your home. Emotional boundaries are how people are allowed to treat you. It’s important to establish both physical and emotional boundaries in various areas of your life.

Why Is Setting Healthy Boundaries Important?

Setting and maintaining boundaries is necessary for your emotional and mental health. Learning how to set boundaries for yourself is a way to manage your life, your time, and your health and can positively affect all aspects of your life.

Healthy boundaries in different areas of your life can help you distribute time and attention appropriately and help you manage stress. They can also help you define your individuality. You can develop a stronger identity and more autonomy. You will be able to make decisions based on your best interests.

Setting healthy boundaries is especially crucial for maintaining meaningful and healthy relationships. It lets all parties know where they stand, gives room for discussion, and allows all parties to be on the same page regarding the relationship.

Being able to set boundaries in relationships helps diminish disappointment, anger, frustration, confusion, or resentment. Once you set certain boundaries, the other person would no longer have false hopes or assumptions about the relationship.

Benefits of Healthy Boundaries | Hopeful Panda

How to Set Healthy Boundaries

The idea of setting boundaries is pretty simple, though implementing it may be difficult, especially if you have trouble saying “no” and spent most of your life adhering to what others want.

Basically, the process of setting boundaries is to first figure out what you want from your relationships. Then, come up with boundaries based on those wants. Finally, be clear with yourself and with others about your boundaries and the consequences for breaking them.

Healthy boundaries can look different depending on the setting, the relationship, and what you personally want. But it is important to set them in all aspects of your life.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries Steps | Hopeful Panda

1. Understand why setting healthy boundaries is important

To first be able to introduce and set boundaries, it’s important to understand why they’re important and how they would benefit you. Think about all the improvements setting healthy boundaries will bring to your life.

You may feel guilty or selfish if you’re not used to setting boundaries because that’s what you were taught growing up. But remember, it’s necessary for your mental health and well-being. There’s nothing wrong with taking priority over your health.

You have needs, too. You may feel bad for hurting someone’s feelings, but establishing boundaries isn’t to attack or offend the other person; it’s to protect and take care of yourself. If the person respects you, they will respect your boundary.

2. Decide what you want

When you feel uncomfortable about something, try to see what caused you to feel that way. Explore your thoughts, thinking patterns, actions, and reactions to different things. This may be difficult if you’re used to tolerating discomfort due to your past abuse. But you have the right to want what’s best for you.

Once you figure out what makes you uncomfortable or upset, you will be able to come up with boundaries to keep that in check. Remember, you have the right to voice what you are not okay with.

Once you decide on what you want, establish and express your boundaries. Then, come up with reasonable consequences for if and when those boundaries get broken.

3. Examine existing boundaries

Take a moment to examine boundaries you might already have in place. Then, think about whether you need to make any adjustments to those existing boundaries.

Are they too rigid or too loose? Are you distancing or shutting yourself out from other people? Is there anything you’re currently not okay with that others might not be aware of? When someone breaks your boundaries, do you keep letting it slide?

Make the necessary adjustments to address the various problems that might be coming from your existing boundaries.

It takes time for us to see whether a boundary we established is too much, too little, or just enough. So it’s normal for our boundaries to change. However, try to remain consistent with them as best as you can.

4. Keep your boundaries simple

When establishing a boundary, there’s no need to overcomplicate or overthink it. You can simply say “no” if and when someone asks you for something or does something to you that you’re not comfortable with.

There’s no need to stress yourself out or go too far in establishing a boundary. A simple “no” or “that’s not okay” should be enough.

If you’re a people-pleaser, saying “no” can be a hard thing to do. But it is doable. Start practicing it with people you are more comfortable saying “no” to. Different people have different comfort levels, so start with someone you’re more comfortable voicing your needs to.

Although boundaries are beneficial to your mental health, try not to define your life with them. Anything in excess can be bad.

Establishing boundaries can be simple. Briefly and directly voice what you’re not okay with and what overstepping that boundary means. In the end, do what’s best for you and trust your instincts.

5. Take it slowly

Starting off with a bunch of boundaries can be overwhelming, especially if you didn’t have many (or even any) to begin with. So take it slow and start small.

Establish a few simple ones and see how it goes. Then make the necessary adjustments or add boundaries as needed. Again, I know I’m repeating myself at this point, but do what makes you comfortable. This is the whole point you’re setting boundaries to begin with.

6. Set reasonable consequences

It’s pointless to set boundaries if you don’t also set consequences. So decide on reasonable consequences for if and when your boundaries get broken.

When setting boundaries, it’s important to briefly state why they’re important and what violating or overstepping those boundaries mean.

For example, if you have a friend that constantly complains about your partner, you might want to establish a boundary by saying “I don’t like hearing my partner being talked about negatively. As my friend, I hope you can respect that.” If they violate that boundary again, you could repeat what you said and add, “If you continue this, I might have to reconsider our friendship”.

However, it’s important to note that consequences are NOT the same as punishments or threats. Consequences should NOT be used as threats to control someone else’s behavior.

Instead, you can see consequences as something triggered by a cause. A friend constantly complaining about someone you love regardless of your discomfort will continue to strain the friendship, eventually causing it to end, even if you didn’t determine that consequence beforehand.

7. Stick to your boundaries and remain consistent

Although you can make changes and tweaks to your boundaries, it’s also important to try to remain consistent and stick to your boundaries as much as you can (as long as they’re beneficial to you).

Try not to let your boundaries slide. When you do, it could become a reason for others to continue to try to overstep your boundaries. It may also cause new expectations and demands for people around you.

If someone breaks a boundary, let them have the consequences. The only way to make your boundaries stick with other people is to stick to them yourselves. If you don’t abide by the rules you set, why would the other person?

So try to keep things consistent and steady to reinforce and clearly establish your boundaries.


8. Focus on yourself when voicing a boundary

When setting boundaries, you might think you’re coming off unfriendly or confrontational. However, you can set and maintain boundaries without upsetting other people.

When voicing a boundary, try to focus on yourself. Phrase it in a way that makes you the focus so it wouldn’t feel like an attack on the other person.

For example, instead of saying “Stop texting or calling me when I’m at work”, you can say “I don’t answer my phone or texts at work. It’s perhaps best to text or call me at another time, preferably in the evenings.”

9. Communicate

As I’ve said time and time again in many of my other posts, communication is key to any relationship. Effective communication in a relationship takes assumptions, guesses, or false expectations out of the equation.

Communication is critical when it comes to boundaries, especially if someone oversteps.

Effectively communicating doesn’t mean you have to overexplain or justify your boundary. It means that you are able to briefly and directly state your boundary and the consequences in a clear manner.

When someone violates or oversteps, that’s when you should raise your concerns. You don’t have to be confrontational about it. But you should learn to voice your needs and assert your boundaries.

Once again, focus on yourself when voicing your boundary, not the other person. This way, you won’t offend or hurt the other person while still getting your point across.

10. Boundaries may vary for different parts of your life

You may have a few basic boundaries like how you deserve to be treated with respect or how you have the right to your privacy. However, try to analyze the different boundaries you have in place for different areas in your life.

Obviously, your boundaries regarding a relationship would vary depending on the setting, the type of relationship you have, who the other person is, and your history with the person.

Your boundaries would likely be different for your parents, significant other, friends, coworkers, boss, children, and whoever else. You may have looser boundaries with your friends and partner than with your children. And if you have a toxic family member or coworker, you may have stricter boundaries for them.

What applies to people also applies to the setting you are in. The boundaries you have at work may be more strict than the ones you have at home. And boundaries you have in your own home might not apply when you’re in someone else’s home.

11. Recognize and respect others’ boundaries

While it’s important for other people to recognize and respect your boundaries, it’s also just as important for you to recognize and respect other people’s boundaries, even if they’re different than yours.

It’s important to establish a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.

12. Use common sense

Boundaries may vary on different circumstances, individuals, relationships, and settings. Most boundaries (yours and other people’s) aren’t explicitly stated. Usually, there’s no need to voice a boundary unless it’s overstepped or violated. So the best thing to do is to use common sense. If you want clarity or confirmation, simply ask if it’s okay.

There can be many reasons why others might not voice their boundaries. That’s probably something you’re familiar with. Some people may have trouble saying “no” or have trouble voicing their discomfort in fear of offending the other person.

It’s not your job to determine other people’s boundaries. However, you can still be observant and make reasonable conclusions based on how someone reacts to your behavior towards them.

For example, if you’re talking about something and the other person keeps changing the subject, perhaps it’s safe to assume that it’s not something they’re comfortable talking about. Whether it’s something you want to discuss with them depends on your relationship with them and how important it is to you.

How to set healthy boundaries when boundaries are repeatedly violated

Setting boundaries takes practice and restraint. It may be tempting to let things slide over and over again, especially if it’s what you’re used to growing up. But try your best to stand your ground.

It’s important to stick to what you originally established. Your boundaries are there for your own well-being.

When someone repeatedly violates and oversteps, it’s perhaps best to put some distance between you and the other person if possible. When it’s a personal relationship, you can consider ending it or at least limit the amount of contact and interaction you have. Learn more about how to set boundaries with a narcissistic or abusive parent.

Things get more complicated when someone of authority (e.g. boss, cop, teacher) is the one repeatedly violating your boundaries. In this case, it’s best to know and weigh your available options. Decide which steps you need to take and all the possible risks you could be facing when taking such steps.

In the end, it’s up to you whether you want to tolerate the repeated violations to avoid the risks, walk away from it if it’s possible, or involve someone of higher authority.

Unfortunately, sometimes, all you can do is suck it up because there is no other option. If you grew up in a strict or abusive household, then you don’t need me to tell you that that’s just the reality of certain situations.

Conclusion

Boundaries are essentially a form of self-care because you are establishing what you are not okay with. Again, there is nothing wrong with taking care of your mental and emotional health. But of course, it’s important to respect other people’s boundaries, too.

It may take some time and consideration, and perhaps some trial and error in different circumstances and situations for you to decipher your boundaries. And that’s okay. The important thing is to listen to yourself and do what’s best for you.

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