You’re probably familiar with the idea of having good boundaries, and you know they can benefit your relationships and your mental health. Boundaries can keep us from feeling taken advantage of or resentful of others and can boost our self-confidence and sense of self-worth. They can also prevent us from taking on the problems and negative emotions of other people.
However, there is often confusion about what setting boundaries really looks like, and how you can set them effectively. There are also several reasons that people find it difficult to set strong boundaries.
So, you know that boundaries are important, but do you know how to actually set them? Do you know why you might have difficulty doing it, and what might help?
Let’s dive into some of those answers so you can start developing better boundaries in your life.
What Makes It Hard To Set Boundaries
There are several reasons why you may have difficulty setting boundaries with others. A common reason is the fear of disappointing another person or making another person angry. It can feel risky to say what you need or want, or place a limit on what you are willing to do. In that situation, another person might be disappointed, angry, or have some other kind of negative reaction. Although their reaction may be difficult to deal with, the alternative is that you do not get your own needs met or that you end up taking things on that leave you overwhelmed or resentful.
So, you’re left with a choice. It is important to know that it is common to predict that someone will react negatively to a boundary being set, and then when it happens, the experience goes much more positively than anticipated.
It is also common for people who have a history of trauma to have difficulty setting boundaries with others. When you have experienced trauma, especially multiple times, your boundaries have been violated over and over again. This can leave you unsure of what your boundaries should even be. It can be a process to learn how to identify your own wants, needs, and limits so that you can start to communicate these to others.
How Can You Set Boundaries Effectively?
When you are thinking about seeing boundaries, there are both physical and mental/emotional boundaries to consider. Physical boundaries tend to be more obvious. You have to decide what you’re comfortable with and what you don’t want to allow. It’s important to make those boundaries as clear as possible. Mental/emotional boundaries can be more complicated to explain to other people. These include your needs, wants, beliefs, feelings, and even the time you need to be alone.
When you’re communicating your boundaries with others, be clear and concise. You don’t have to go into a lot of detail explaining yourself, and it’s okay to simply express that you need to set certain boundaries right now in order to feel comfortable. The people who care about you will understand that. If you are nervous, you can remind yourself of what was mentioned above: the experience usually goes better than people predict it will. You also will want to remind yourself of all of the reasons you want to set the boundary. It can also help to do a breathing exercise for anxiety before having the conversation.
If People React Negatively
There may be some people who don’t necessarily react well when you set a boundary. If someone reacts negatively, you can acknowledge that they are upset or frustrated, but that you still have your need/want/limit. If they start to go off topic, or continue to become angry, you can choose to end the conversation (another way of setting a boundary). If over time they continue to not respect what you are asking for, you will have to evaluate whether you want to continue in the relationship with this person. This of course will depend on what kind of boundary you are trying to set, and what your relationship is with this person.
Setting boundaries can be complicated since it impacts your relationships. Although it may be difficult, the payoff of having strong boundaries is definitely worth it. You are likely to notice increased self-confidence and less resentment in your relationships, along with other mental health benefits.
If you are struggling to set boundaries with the people in your life, and you’d like some help figuring out how to navigate this, feel free to contact me for more information or to set up a free consultation or an appointment. I’m happy to help so that you can experience the benefits of stronger boundaries within your relationships.