I don’t know about you, but I regularly struggle with setting boundaries for myself. I say yes before I even think about the impact of taking on that work or responsibility.
I go along to get along, even though there’s often a toll on me, and I can “silver-line” everything to stay positive and focus on the good and not look at reality. It’s a challenge for a lot of us, but conscious awareness, practice, and a big dose of courage can be, without exaggeration, life-changing.
Saying “no” or “that just doesn’t work well for me” does not cause someone else’s suffering. I have to keep reminding myself that even though I may disappoint someone with a boundary that I set, I disappoint myself and my health when I don’t.
Setting healthy boundaries is a life skill. When we define what is appropriate behavior in our work and life relationships, we’re keeping both parties psychologically safe. A healthy boundary recognizes and respects one’s own needs, limitations, and emotions while also respecting the needs and boundaries of others.
Here are seven boundary considerations:
1. Self-awareness: Understanding your emotions, triggers, and limitations, which is essential for setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. This involves being in touch with your feelings and recognizing when something is crossing your personal limits.
2. Self-care: Prioritizing your physical, emotional, and mental well-being by setting boundaries that protect you from harmful or stressful situations.
3. Communication: Clearly and assertively communicating to others your needs, preferences, and limitations. Effective communication is crucial for creating mutual understanding and maintaining respectful relationships.
4. Respect for others: Acknowledging and respecting the boundaries of others, just as you expect them to respect yours. This fosters mutual respect and healthy interactions.
5. Personal responsibility: Taking responsibility for your own emotions, reactions, and well-being rather than placing the responsibility on others.
6. Authenticity: Being true to yourself and your values, even if it means saying “no” or setting limits that others might not agree with.
7. Balancing empathy: While being empathetic and compassionate toward others, recognizing when you need to prioritize your needs and well-being.
I want to stress how boundaries affect our mental and physical well-being by closing with this interview excerpt from Canadian physician and author Dr. Gabor Maté. He emphasizes the connection between boundaries, maintaining parity in relationships, and the effect on our health.
“Love is supposed to be a two-way valve; it’s supposed to flow in both directions. When it only flows toward others, and you ignore your own needs, you’re taking on too much stress in this life, and it will take a toll on your health. There’s nothing wrong with loving others; we’re meant to do that, but when we’re loving others while chronically suppressing our own needs—where we are always afraid of disappointing others—our own needs are compulsively ignored. That’s a quick route to disease.”