One of the most important aspects of mental wellness is coping with the stresses of life and being able to participate and advance in your community. And how could that ever happen without boundaries?
Boundaries are limits of space between yourself and another person; a clear space where you begin and the other person ends and vice versa. The purpose of setting boundaries are to enhance and maintain the relationship between certain peoples so both people have those set boundaries but are still getting what they need from the relationship/friendship.
Just hearing the word "boundary" can be stressful. There is so much hidden tension with the word and concept of boundaries. There's worrying about hurting the other person's feelings, worrying about opinions of our boundaries, and worrying about the general fear of confrontation.
I'm here to tell you: it's not that deep. It isn't! You can set healthy boundaries without worrying about the damage that follows by being clear, concise, and polite, but stern. Your boundaries should reflect the relationship you want to have with the other person. If your tone is aggressive while you're trying to set a boundary, your relationship with that person will reflect that. You have to remain calm and collected when setting a boundary, even if it's in a situation that does anger you. Boundaries are meant to help you and the other person:
- Promoting good mental health
- Promoting good emotional health
- Developing autonomy
- Influences other's behavior
- Avoidance of burnout
There are plenty of ways to set boundaries but I usually stick with two approaches: the Clear-Cut method and the Discrete Boundary approach. The Clear-Cut method is the method that most use when setting boundaries which involves verbally setting the boundary with the other person. In order to be as clear and effective as possible, use "I feel _______ because..." statements to get your point across while also not leaving anything open for interpretation.
For example, let's make up a scenario where you live with roommates and your roommate has been using your utensils and cooking supplies without asking your permission. You haven't agreed on sharing them, but they use them anyway. You sit down with them to have a conversation about it and set a boundary. To effectively communicate the boundary with them by using the "I feel ______ because..." statement, it may be something like this:
"I feel violated when you use my things without asking because I value my privacy. It would make me feel better to know you understand this and can help me maintain my privacy."
When setting personal boundaries, it's important to do the four following:
- Define and identify the desired boundary
- Communicate and say what you need
- Stay simple - don't over explain or give room for interpretation
- Set consequences and say why the boundary is important
The other method I use is called the Discrete Boundary method. This method is best used with friends and coworkers. These are boundaries you can set through behaviors. For example, let's say you work long days and get back home in the evenings. Your friend knows the time you get off and calls you right when you get off to talk and catch up. You love the phone calls, but you feel like you need time to yourself for awhile after work before socializing. Instead of verbalizing the boundary, you can refrain from answering phone calls right after work (or for the night if that's what you need) in order to show that you're unavailable after work. This method I use for friends with high anxiety/depression or anything that makes them hyper sensitive to confrontation. It helps them see and realize for themselves that you're unavailable after work, and that they either need to call you before work or on a day that you're free.
In order to set healthy, long-standing boundaries, realize that setting boundaries is a form of self-care. With every boundary you set, you are doing more and more to care for yourself and protect your energy. You are being grown enough to communicate an issue, rather than resenting the person and not communicating (which is rare in this generation). Be proud of yourself and know that your self-care and boundary setting is productive and will pay off in the future. Start by saying "no" with no explanation - it's not needed.
Your "no" is as enough as your "yes".
If you're looking to set boundaries in your life, it's important for you to assess the areas in your life that need a set boundary. For example, you could have healthy boundaries with your romantic partner, but need to set more healthy boundaries for friends and coworkers. From there, it will be easy to decide what boundaries we need to set and with whom. Boundary-setting also comes with consequences. We have to accept the consequences before we set a boundary with someone else because there will always be consequences, whether good or bad. But, know the power lies with you. Setting a boundary with someone is powerful because you're taking back something that the other person (intentionally or unintentionally stole from you). Whether it be love, freedom, time, or personal belongings, something had to be taken from you in order for you to decide to set a boundary.
So I leave you guys with this little piece of advice: keep choosing yourself! Choose yourself and your happiness over any external thing in your life. Wake up and choose yourself each and every day, because you deserve it and so does your mental wellness.