Words By Caitriona Potter
Feelings of overwhelm, exhaustion, and resentment are common signs of having poor boundaries. Similarly overworking, overextending yourself, and neglecting your own needs can signal that you might need to readjust. Boundaries communicate to others what you will and will not tolerate, and are a sign of strong personal identity and self-esteem.
Boundary setting is a way of empowering yourself, keeping yourself safe, and maintaining healthy relationships with family, friends, and work. This may seem ‘selfish’ or intimidating if you are not used to advocating for yourself. However, setting healthy boundaries improves your relationship with yourself, and with others. It is a matter of honoring and respecting your own limits, so that you can give to others from abundance, rather than obligation or begrudgery. Below is a simple guide to setting healthy boundaries.
You may never have considered what your own boundaries are before. If you often feel guiltyor taken advantage of, this is a great place to begin, as this highlights where your boundaries are poor. For example, if you often say ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no’. You are the only person entitled to your time, energy, emotions, etc. and it’s up to you to decide how much you are willing to give to others, whilst expecting nothing in return. This also includes setting boundaries with yourself, to maintain your equilibrium and wellbeing. Set aside some time for self-reflection, and ask yourself questions such as; ‘What is causing me unnecessary stress?’, ‘What areas of my life are exhausting for me?’, and so on. Trust your gut feeling in the process. Examples of boundaries include:
- I will not work or respond to emails after 5pm.
- I will not drink/ be pressured to drink alcohol.
- I will not use social media before 10am.
Until you clearly communicate your boundaries; you will continue to feel taken advantage of. It is best to practice the skill of communication as early as possible, such as when starting a new job. However, personal relationships can be a lot more complicated than corporate civility. If you have never set boundaries with loved ones before, it may take some time for these people to adapt to this shift in you. It is important to remember, people who love and respect you, will respect your boundaries. You never need to apologize or feel guilty for prioritizing yourself in relationships.
Once you have set and communicated your boundaries, it is also your responsibility to maintain them. As you adapt to this new level of agency over your life, it is important not to backtrack to please others. You have identified your own personal limits, and it is your duty to yourself to withhold these. You can be a kind, generous person and still say no to people. It can be scary to take responsibility for your life, set boundaries, and say no. But, this is also the beginning of reclaiming and remembering the power of your own energy, time, body, and space.