Have you ever found yourself in an uncomfortable situation in the workplace? Or felt backed into a corner while communicating with a spouse or significant other? Maybe you are experiencing dysfunction in your family, but just don’t know how to navigate without hurting anyone’s feelings?
Well, if you see yourself in any of these scenarios or are just looking for a way to start shifting to healthier relationships with others, you may be experiencing issues with boundaries.
A boundary is essentially a marking point that indicates the limit of an area, like a dividing line. Since boundaries can be both physical and emotional, understand that at some point in life, our boundaries can be tested in many different ways.
Whether that’s at work, at home, with our family, or relationships, there will come a time when you feel out of your comfort zone in dealing with those around you. So you must pay attention to those moments and how they make you feel because, no matter how much relationship advice you get, it may be a matter of setting boundaries to keep you aligned with your true self.
So I’d like to share with you my tips on how to set healthy boundaries in all of your relationships.
But first, why is it important to set healthy boundaries? Well, due to the fact that we interact with different people that all play unique roles in our lives, setting boundaries is what helps to support greater personal well-being. You see, having poor boundaries or having no boundaries at all, can have a lasting effect on our overall mental health, causing potential animosity, resentment, and bad judgment.
The tricky part is picking up on the red flags that could be contributing to or perpetuating this kind of behavior. So let’s jump into some of my tips -
Put yourself at the top of your to-do list
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, getting to a place where you feel comfortable setting boundaries is a process that demands self-reflection and self-care. Slowing down to unpack each relationship can take quite a bit of work, but knowing your personal values is going to significantly help you to uncover what changes need to be made. Knowing your position in the relationships you have starts with practicing self-care and tuning in to what really makes you flourish. Afterall, you are the most important person in your life.
For example, think about the times you are at your best in the workplace. If you know that a few dedicated hours to tackle your personal workload is what you need each day, make that clear, allowing people to understand how you work is crucial to overall productivity. Or perhaps you enjoy working out or going for a run after hours, but your coworkers always pressure you into going for drinks.
If exercising is what you need to take care of yourself and help you to unwind, then again, make that clear by putting your needs at the top of your to-do list. A lot of us spend most of our time at work, so making sure you are working in an environment where you feel respected is completely valid.
When you start to sacrifice your personal values to please others, realize that it’s time to activate those healthy boundaries. Self-awareness is going to be the key to unlocking healthier relationships with others and a life where you are the most comfortable in your own skin.
Understand your needs in each relationship
Different relationships call for different boundaries. The healthy boundaries you will set in the workplace are going to be different than the boundaries applied at home or with your significant other.
For example, if you were brought up in a dysfunctional home, being able to pinpoint what a healthy boundary looks like may be difficult. So, to emerge from past trauma requires you to look inside yourself and understand both what you want from your family and the boundaries your family members have also set (whether they realize them or not).
Acknowledging the boundaries and behaviors of others is a great starting point in setting your own healthy boundaries. You are basically letting those closest to you know that you hear them and you see their needs, but your boundaries are also just as important.
If there’s a close friend you feel is manipulating you or even joking around at your expense, understand that’s it’s okay to set boundaries in your social life. And, the truth is, it can seem scary at first to confront a friend, but being honest about your intentions only yields a stronger relationship going forward.
Give yourself permission to say no
In certain environments, it can be easy to get stuck in the mode of always wanting to please by saying yes. Maybe your boss suggests a project or your spouse asks for a small favor - in those environments, it’s totally natural to want to lend a helping hand. But one thing you must remember is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying no in a situation where you feel like your character or even your mental health is being compromised… and you’ll know exactly when that moment is because you may feel anxious or nervous about what would happen if you choose to say no.
If you notice that some people always look to you for help and it gets to the point where they expect you to say yes, then it may be time to set some new and healthy boundaries. Learning to speak up and say no is a process that can take some time. You might feel guilty or embarrassed, but know that you are only doing this to preserve your core values, allowing your true self to shine through.
By giving yourself permission to say no, you are setting a healthy boundary to help protect yourself from perpetuating bad habits, leading to a much more promising future where you feel like the you that you’ve always imagined. The Beautiful No author, Sheri Salata, describes this as “revisiting her past, excavating its lessons, and bolding reimagining her future.” No matter where you are in life, you have the power to reshape your destiny. So when you notice the people in your life constantly seeking your attention, use those moments to uncover what boundaries have and have not been set. As it might just be a matter of having to say no.
Be firm, but kind
Setting boundaries is almost like your personal handbook for navigating relationships with everyone you encounter, so you’ve got to be firm in your beliefs. But being firm doesn’t mean being aggressive or mean. It’s leading with clear and pure intentions while being kind in your approach.
Let’s say you are in a loving and healthy relationship but are feeling a bit smothered by your significant other. Perhaps it’s time to set a boundary around needing more alone time. You realize that you are starting to sacrifice your passions and hobbies or relationships with friends and family, by indulging too much time into the relationship.
By setting a healthy boundary with your partner, understand that you are not distancing yourself from the relationship. But rather allowing yourself to feel whole and well-rounded by not sacrificing the things outside of the relationship that makes you happy.
When you are firm with your boundaries, you may notice that relationships start to change, and that’s okay. Setting this boundary establishes your identity, showing your partner that you value and respect yourself just as much as they do. You may even notice your partner also wanting to have their own alone time, which is an incredible way of being the example and setting the tone for a stronger relationship.
Realize that you may change
When you allow your true self to emerge from poor boundaries, you are taking a stand on what you believe in, and I call that personal growth. Embracing change is all a part of personal development, and by setting your boundaries with others, you are telling the Universe that you are comfortable in your own skin and completely capable of becoming the person you’ve always imagined.
So understand that you may see yourself changing and growing, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that in my book :-).
And if you’ve ever sensed some sort of internal block, do yourself a favor and reserve your seat for our free online workshop that will help you discover what could be holding you back from your greatest life.
Reserve your spot today to kickstart the life you’ve always wanted. Remember, you are the most important person in your life and you matter. So even the smallest step in the right direction can be the biggest step of your life!
Natalie Ledwell is a best selling author, speaker and successful entrepreneur. She's passionate about helping others to achieve their greatest dreams and ambitions through her personal development programs and her online TV show, The Inspiration Show.