There’s a difference between being open and living without boundaries. In truth, it’s impossible to be open-hearted without having boundaries in place. At the end of the day, all boundaries are is a way of being honest about what we’re okay with and what we’re not.
How can you tell if you’ve set healthy boundaries?
If you walk away from social interactions feeling depleted, aren’t getting your needs met or are always backing out of plans at the last minute, then you haven’t been clearly communicating your boundaries to the people in your life.
When we communicate healthy boundaries, relationships energise us, we feel heard and seen, our needs are met by our loved ones, and we do everything we say we’re going to do because we said “no” to all the things we didn’t really want to do.
Have you ever said “yes” to something you didn’t want to do because you were afraid of letting someone down? That likely turned out one of three ways:
- You bailed at the last minute, disappointing them more than you would have if you said no from the get-go.
- You dragged yourself out of bed and did the thing but you didn’t do the best job because it wasn’t something that excited you. In the end, it would have been better for everyone if you had said no and they’d asked someone who actually wanted to be there.
- You walked away feeling exhausted and not like yourself because you weren’t living in alignment with your authenticity and that’s disempowering.
People-pleasing is the most common reason we don’t set boundaries. The fear that if we disappoint someone it means we aren’t good enough.
It’s not our fault we’re afraid to disappoint people. As children, we’re taught that if we don’t behave and “do as we’re told” by adults – parents, teachers, employers – it means we’re bad. So bad that we’re often punished for expressing our own wants and needs.
Before we go any further, we want to share this quote with you:
Some people will get mad at you for not being who they want you to be. One of the biggest forms of self-betrayal is living your life by their rules instead of your own. Your task is simple: be kind, be real, be humble, keep growing, and unapologetically live your best life. – Yung Pueblo
Because of how we are raised, we’re wired to think that if we set boundaries, we’re bad people, putting up walls and shutting people out. But boundaries are not opposite to kindness. When we set healthy boundaries and communicate them clearly, it’s actually the kindest thing we can do for ourselves and everyone around us.
Here are 5 ways you can set healthy boundaries and preserve your energy:
1. Be honest with yourself
First, you have to figure out what you actually want and need in your relationships. This requires us to go inward and find our authentic voice.
We might think we want to get a promotion and climb the ladder at work, which is why we accept long working hours. But maybe we only want a promotion because we think that will make us worthy in the eyes of other people. What we really want is time to be creative and connect with friends and family.
Society makes us believe quality time with our partners is the most important thing in a healthy relationship. But we really value our space and alone time too and want to spend more time apart so we can feel excited and energised when we spend time together.
Figure out what it is you genuinely want (and need) so you know which boundaries you need to start setting.
2. Know the difference between compromising & submitting
We all have to do things we don’t want to. Without compromise, community cannot exist. But there’s a difference between compromising and submitting (letting people walk all over your boundaries).
A compromise should be symbiotic. You help them out because they also help you out. It’s not tit for tat, but in general, the relationship feels balanced.
Letting someone walk all over your boundaries is very different. When this happens, someone is purposefully asking you to do things they know you don’t want to do (because you’ve told them) but they want you to do it anyway. These relationships feel off-balance like you’re giving a lot more than you’re getting.
3. Know when to walk away
Some people will simply never respect your boundaries. It might be because they’re inherently selfish or because it makes them feel powerful. Either way, it’s up to you to walk away from these relationships and preserve your energy.
If you’re scared of disappointing them or being a “bad person”, remember this: they have always prioritised themselves, if they were in your position they would do exactly the same thing. You need to prioritise yourself in order to be there for the people who respect you.
4. Communicate clearly
Never expect people to read your mind. They aren’t going to just know what you want and need. We need to be clear and tell them exactly what the boundaries are upfront.
Here are some examples:
“I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed lately, I can’t take on any more work until I get on top of my current to-do list.”
“It sounds lovely but I’m really looking forward to some alone time this weekend.”
“I find coming home for Christmas really stressful and feel anxious in the weeks leading up to it. I really need you to take it easy on me this year and not project your stress onto me.”
5. “No” is the most energetic word
In a world where we’re asked to be “yes people”, saying “no” is one of the most difficult things to do. But “no” is the most empowering, energising word there is.
Start small, say “no” to little things and notice how amazing you feel afterward. Work your way up to the big stuff. It’s not easy, but you’ll get there.