Boundaries are the way we define and separate things. A boundary helps us identify where things end and begin and where the limits are, without them things get blurry and confusing.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, lost or spread way too thin, it might be time to start considering your boundaries. Knowing that boundaries are necessary to have a healthier life with a clearer direction of where you want go is the first step to getting started.
Sometimes even though you’re aware you need to set boundaries, it can be a bit tricky knowing how to go about setting them or what exactly your boundary is.
Here are 4 ways to identify and set boundaries to have a healthier life.
1. Identifying the way you want to feel
If you’ve noticed that you’ve been feeling more scattered, chaotic, anxious or other less desirable states, you’re likely in need of a boundary tweak. The first step is getting clear on how you want to feel.
How will it feel when you have a clear understanding of how you’re spending your time and your energy? Imagine what that life will feel like on a daily basis even if you don’t know what it will look like.
Identifying the feeling will start to bring it into focus. (If you’re struggling with this check out the FREE guide, “15 Signs of Burnout in Women & How to Manage It.”)
2. Decide beforehand and stick to the plan
If you know you’re walking into a relationship, project or environment that pushes your boundaries, get clear ahead of time what your limits are.
For example, if you’re going to a family event and you know it will be triggering, identify what topics and interactions are okay for you. Have some topics identified ahead of time you would be okay talking about to steer the conversation.
Excuse yourself for a “work call” or go to the bathroom if you find yourself in a situation that creates distress.
Or say you always do 90% of the work for team projects. Make a commitment of how much work you’re willing to do. Get clear with yourself how much time and energy you want to commit before you start.
Most importantly, do your best to stick to the plan! Have your own back by holding the line and following the plan you set for yourself.
3. Guilt vs Resentment
Setting boundaries doesn’t always feel empowering. Oftentimes, it’s associated with feelings of guilt, maybe feeling you’re letting someone down or you should have done more.
This is not a fun feeling, but it is one that you can tackle and process. The clearer you get with your boundaries and the more practice you have setting them, the more your guilt will decrease.
Resentment is often a good indicator of a boundary crossing. If you’re feeling resentful, ask yourself what boundary you need to set and communicate.
Resentment comes when you give more than you wanted to give, if you’re feeling this way you need to ask yourself where the limit is around this issue.
4. I statements vs You statements
As you start to better understand your boundaries, it’s your job to make sure people are aware of what they are and there is a clear consequence to crossing the boundary.
For example, if someone is not being conscious of your time you might be tempted to say “You’re being rude OR You’re disrespecting my time,” or you may not say anything but find your annoyance growing and patience dwindling.
Instead, try to identify a clear “I” statement to let them know your experience and expectations like, “I want to let you know when we set a time to meet, I expect you to be there at that time. I value both our time, so if this happens again we’ll have to….(find a new time, stop meeting, change the amount we meet, etc).”
Boundaries come with a lot of challenges, and aren’t always easy to navigate alone.
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