With life seeming to get busier by the minute, setting healthy energetic boundaries is a life skill that nobody can afford not to learn!
Boundaries are absolutely essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, particularly where relationships are concerned. Yet it’s not something most people are taught. And even if you have a hunch that your boundaries may need a little work, how do you begin?
Well, with a little guidance, setting (and keeping) your personal boundaries can become second nature. Yes, really! Here’s how to begin:
Know Your Limits
How can you set limits, unless you know them?
This is tricky to teach (we’re all different, right?) because what we’re each capable of tolerating differs for everyone. But it IS up to you to figure this out.
- What can you handle?
- What is too much?
- What makes you feel totally overwhelmed?
- What do you enjoy?
Begin to get familiar with where those edges are for you.
Get to Know How You’re (really) Feeling
You likely know what it’s like to feel laugh-out-loud happy.
What about anticipatory and excited?
Or overwhelmed and anxious?
These are extremes. So what about all those emotions in the middle, when you’re on the way to extreme emotion, but not quite there yet. Do you know the signs? Can you tap into those subtler emotions, the ones closer to the middle?
It’s also your job to become familiar with those feelings that are edging towards discomfort. This way, you’ll begin to see when a possible breach is likely, and prevent it. By, yep, you guessed it, holding that personal boundary nice and firm.
Look at Past Patterns
It may be worth looking at your upbringing and family dynamic, to get a better idea of how boundaries were modeled to you as a child.
If your mother was always the one to take the emotional strain form the rest of the family, is this something you feel you must also do? Or if you shared a bedroom with siblings, perhaps your ideas about personal space and privacy were stripped away from a young age? Or maybe you had a needy relative who lived close by, and observed an unhealthy model of give-and-take?
It’s important not to judge yourself, but use self-inquiry as a tool for awareness.
How to Actually Set Boundaries
So if you’ve got an idea of where your boundaries need to lie, the next step is to set them. This means making it known to the other people in your life what you’re available for (or not) and capable of giving.
Don’t wait to be asked. People will ask more of you than you’re able to give – this is the nature of life, and it’s nothing personal. So make it known to others that you don’t have the time/energy/willingness to be available in the ways that you used to.
This also goes for when someone has crossed a boundary. Tell them. Don’t sulk, or avoid them for the next week – actually state that whatever happened wasn’t right for you. Unless you do this, the other person will never know, and unwittingly step over that boundary the next time.
The next necessary step is to be clear. Speak clearly, use defining language, give time limits.
In reality, people love direction. And thnk about it, wouldn’t you be horrified if you thought you’d caused somebody discomfort, or overwhelm? It’s far, far easier to understand how to act sensitively if we all know what that means.
Practice Boundary Setting!
Once you figure this stuff out, it’s not the end.
Your boundaries will be pushed, even broken at times. In this case, don’t berate yourself or feel any shame. It’s totally normal, and it’s the learning process – it’s actually a really great way of reconfirming where your boundaries actually stand!
The limits of your boundaries will also change as you do – and as the months, seasons and years wear on, what you need and want, and certainly don’t need and want, will all transform.
This is why it’s called a practice. Remember to stay deeply in touch with your own feelings throughout and let them be your guide.