If, like me, you’re on a journey of creating a healthier and more intentional life, then setting boundaries is an essential task on your to-do list. It is an important aspect in developing and protecting your self-identity and well-being.
It’s also vital in creating healthy relationships whether at home, at work, with your partner, with friends, or even social media. In fact, recognising and respecting each other’s boundaries is a fundamental part of a healthy and functional relationship.
If you’ve ever found it difficult to set healthy boundaries in your life, I’m letting you in on how you can start doing it right now! I’ve even got a printable you can use to help you do it. So keep scrolling to discover how you can create healthy boundaries in your life.
Why it’s important to set boundaries
It helps you avoid burnout
When was the last time you were spread so thin that you felt like giving up? We put a lot of expectations on ourselves, sometimes to the point of burning out. But this can be avoided if we define and protect boundaries that help us keep our to-do list more realistic!
It helps you avoid resentment
Everyone’s been in a situation where they’ve felt that maybe someone has overstepped their boundaries and taken too much of their time, energy, or emotion. This, unfortunately, usually leads to feelings of resentment. Setting healthy boundaries prevents that overstepping from happening in the first place.
Healthy boundaries = happy relationships
If you want to improve the important relationships in your life, boundary-setting needs to be a big part of that! More importantly, it needs to go both ways. Communicating openly about your boundaries creates an open and honest dialogue that will lead to much happier and fulfilling relationships.
It’s a way to respect and honour your inner self
Remember, you – and your boundaries – are worthy of respect. Creating healthy boundaries is an act of self-respect and asserting your place in this world. There will always be people who attempt to trample all over your boundaries, but when you have a strong sense of self, it’s much easier to protect those boundaries!
You’ll be more aware and respectful of other people’s boundaries
More often than not, people don’t even notice that they’re over-stepping other people’s boundaries. We’ve all been guilty of this! But creating your own healthy boundaries is an excellent way for you to open your eyes and mind to other people’s boundaries.
It gives you the chance to grow as a person
When you set these boundaries, you are creating space and time that you can dedicate to self-care, inner growth, and personal development. You’re going to be able to prioritise all the things you need to do to nourish the inner you that has been neglected for far too long.
5 steps you can take to set healthy boundaries
1. Define your boundaries
The first step is to actually decide what boundaries you need to set. This doesn’t have to be complex or difficult, but it’s worth noting that it will be slightly different for each person or situation you encounter. It’s a lot more effective to set specific boundaries whenever you come across a situation that requires it.
To get started with this step, ask yourself these questions:
- What are my basic human rights?
- What are my core values and principles?
- What makes me feel comfortable in this situation?
- What makes me feel uncomfortable in this situation?
2. Communicate your boundaries
Before I say anything else, I want to say this: there is no need for you to over-explain your boundaries or try to justify it! Just be matter-of-fact and direct.
It can seem harsh, but when you try too hard to justify your boundaries, you run the risk of explaining so much that you explain away your reasons. This can cause others to not take your boundaries seriously, which defeats the purpose of setting boundaries in the first place!
Here are some things you can say to communicate your boundaries:
- “I’m not comfortable with this”
- “I don’t have the capacity for that right now”
- “I’ve decided not to do that”
- “I don’t want to”
- “I’d like you to stop doing that”
3. Set consequences
What happens if someone crosses the line? How will you respond to them overstepping your boundaries?
Your boundaries are worthy of not just existing, but being protected too. So you need to think of the exact action you’ll take when someone oversteps.
This will, of course, be different in each situation. But deciding on a consequence and clearly communicating it can be effective in showing the people involved that you are serious.
Here’s a real life example: I told a relative that they can only babysit my child if they promise to use a carseat when driving with them (car seats are unfortunately not required by law in that country). I informed them that babysitting privileges will be taken away should they neglect to do this.
Obviously, they didn’t listen. I was alarmed and upset, but more importantly, I now had the power to assert the consequences I had set earlier on to protect this boundary.
They were not able to babysit my children till they were old enough to not need car seats.
Here are some ways you can establish consequences for toxic oversteppers:
- Think of what they stand to gain by overstepping, then remove that thing from their life completely. For example, that person may call you too frequently to the point of wasting hours of your time.
If they call you far too often (decide on that boundary first), then you will not pick up their calls for an entire week.
- Consider a time-out. Time-outs are incredibly effective for over-steppers. This could mean either removing them, or yourself, from the situation you’re in.
For example, if your colleagues are violating your boundaries by telling racist or sexist jokes at a meeting, tell them they have to leave the room (and quite frankly, you should go straight to HR after the meeting as well).
- Call out passivity. Sometimes, overstepping boundaries isn’t an active action. An example of this is a colleague who always puts their hand up for work, and then neglects to do their part (ugh). This is overstepping a boundary, even if they’re not actually doing anything.
The best way to deal with this is to call them out or bring attention to their behaviour – so for this example, you can remind them about the work they owe 3 times, and if it still doesn’t get done, let them know you’ll be informing your boss about their inaction.
4. Stick to the consequence
You need to be assertive when it comes to the consequences you set in the previous step! It can be majorly uncomfortable, especially if you’re not used to conflict and confrontation (hello, me).
But you can feel confident now because you’ve been clear about your boundaries in that second step, remember?
This is a vital step in ensuring your boundaries are protected in the long-term, so please let go of any guilt or doubt. If you find this difficult to do, you need to start incorporating self-esteem boosting practices into your life, like positive affirmations, meditation, and journaling.
If you still feel uneasy about taking necessary steps to sticking to the consequences, here are some ways you can regain perspective:
- Remember the reasons you created that boundary in the first place
- Recognise this as a chance to protect and nurture your future self
- Resist the urge to excuse or justify their actions – they knowingly caused this consequence to happen. They made their bed, now they get to lay in it!
5. Re-examine your boundaries from time to time
Life changes, situations change, people change. So sometimes you’ll need to adjust your boundaries to make sure they reflect your current needs.
- Does this boundary need to be loosened or tightened?
- Do I need to change the consequences for overstepping this boundary?
- Are there new boundaries I need to set in this relationship or social situation?
Create healthy boundaries with my Boundary Setting Worksheet
If you’re still not quite sure how to set boundaries, I’ve got the perfect printable for you. My FREE Boundary Setting Worksheet contains useful prompts to help you set healthy boundaries. I even include a couple of examples to help you along.
You can download this Boundary Setting Worksheet here, or by filling out the form at the bottom of this post.
You and your boundaries are worthy of respect
‘No’ is a complete sentence!
Setting boundaries is important for your long-term wellbeing and for creating a life that allows you to flourish and thrive. You owe it to yourself to create and protect healthy boundaries. It’s time to prioritise this and add it as one of your goals!
If you’re looking for more ways to have more balance, clarity, and purpose in your life, please consider signing up for my fortnightly newsletters. These emails are always chock full of inspiring content to help you design a fulfilling life, and what better way to get them than right in your inbox?