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Boundary Setting 101

What are boundaries?

Boundary setting basically refers to knowing and choosing

  1. What do you want or need to participate in
  2. Knowing when to remove yourself and step out.

Boundaries are the limits or parameters that you choose for yourself. Boundary setting is how you go about communicating these limits to others. Boundary setting isn’t about keeping yourself separated or closed off; it’s about learning to be connected in a safe and healthy way. You can set boundaries in your personal space, emotions and thoughts, sexuality, belongings, time and energy, and culture and religion to name a few.

Find Internal Peace and Contentment

If you disregard the need to have boundaries in your personal life, you may be focusing more on keeping the peace with people in your life, yet you won’t feel that peace within yourself. Here are some examples to better explain what I mean by this:

Your boss repeatedly asks you to stay late and you continue to say yes to them. Most likely you will then lack time for yourself to decompress after work, and accomplish things in your personal life.

Or, a family member texts you on the weekend asking you to get together. You say yes because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, despite really wanting to relax at home alone.

woman in sunlight

Your Boundaries Should be Flexible

It’s helpful to learn that your boundaries can be flexible. It’s good to check-in with yourself frequently and reassess. You don’t need to have the same boundaries for everyone or every situation. Your boundaries can change as you change and grow.

Pushback is Normal

One very important thing to be prepared for is pushback. If you have had troubles with setting boundaries, people in your life may not like you beginning to set certain boundaries. They might get angry, upset, or act in a way that is punishing. The people in your life that will have the most issues with your boundary setting are the ones who gained the most from you not having boundaries. Let’s use another example to better explain this point: Your partner is used to you putting them first, and as you begin to set boundaries your partner may get hurt or angry and state they feel you are ignoring them.

You are not Wrong for Setting Up a Boundary

Challenge yourself to not immediately apologize for setting boundaries. Instead of doubting yourself if you are getting pushback due to your boundary setting, remind yourself that some people are uncomfortable with boundaries and that is okay. The way that they feel about your boundary is not your responsibility. They are allowed to feel whatever they feel, but just because they are displeased with your boundary doesn’t mean you were wrong for setting it.

You don’t Owe Anyone Lengthy Explanations

It’s helpful to remind yourself that when you set your boundary, such as saying no to something, you don’t need to over explain or over justify. When you over explain or over justify, often it opens up opportunities for people to criticize, challenge it, or try to talk you into a different course of action. For example, if you say no to a friend to go to dinner tonight, because you have errands you want to run, your friend could say “Well, if you just did your errands tomorrow we could still hang out tonight.”

woman floating with wings

Keep it focused on you

Another useful tip is to keep the focus on yourself when setting your boundary. Let’s say you really need a little bit of time to yourself when you get home from work to transition to home life; Instead of telling your partner “You really need to stop bothering me right when I walk in the door,” you could say “I really need 20 minutes to myself after work to decompress. I appreciate it when you give me this space.” It’s useful to note that in your most intimate relationships, it could be helpful to give a little more explanation, in contrast with a coworker or boss you don’t need to offer as much of an explanation.

If you would like help with boundary setting in your own life, please contact me. If you are feeling powerless in setting boundaries or keeping the ones you set, I can help you regain a healthy sense of power and control in your life. This can help to mitigate anxiety or depression in one’s life.

Contact Deva

Deva Murphy MSW, LCSW

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Deva Murphy, MSW, LCSW

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