How to create boundaries so you can trust yourself more and value your needs
Even if you don’t think you need them, creating and understanding boundaries are crucial to navigating this crazy-thing we call life.
The first time I was introduced to the idea of boundaries, I was working in Newark, N.J., at a feminist nonprofit coaching young, high school women. I was trying to teach a workshop to these young women about creating boundaries, but I had never thought to make my own.
Newsflash: You can’t fully teach what you have no experience in, so as you can imagine, that workshop was a complete and utter fail. Fortunately for me, I learned from that experience, and thus began creating and living by my own boundaries.
Boundaries aren’t just about what you don’t like, and they don’t always have to deal with negative things. They are physical, emotional, spatial, sexual and spiritual parameters in which we govern ourselves and how we expect others to interact with us; they are both healthy, and sometimes, unhealthy. The problem is, a lot of the time, we know what we don’t like, but we can’t fully articulate the why behind it.
For me, I like people in my personal space and do not see this as a boundary violation; my spatial limits are endless. However, if you asked me why I actually enjoy having people in my space (which a lot of people would find strange), I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Before I started navigating my limits, I could not articulate why I operated in specific ways, and this was often detrimental to my relationships, and my desires and needs were often misconstrued.
Once I started setting boundaries, I began to trust myself more. I could take care of my needs and I valued them more. Creating boundaries even allows you to choose what to value amongst the alternatives. I could finally articulate to my family, friends and partners what the hell my boundaries were, why they should be respected.
You cannot expect people to know how to interact with you, if you don’t know how you want to be interacted with. You also can’t expect someone to respect something you do or don’t like, without understanding why it’s important to you in the first place.
A good friend of mine told me: “Not having boundaries can be dangerous.” Dangerous in the sense that you’ll never fully appreciate what you like or be able to articulate what you don’t like. This leads to BURNOUT. If you don’t like roller coasters, cool. But, if you can’t tell me why you don’t like them, i.e., fear of heights, moving objects, or being strapped into something moving over 80 miles an hour, then I can’t fully appreciate your fear. I will constantly ask you to test your height or speed limits because you did not articulate your initial fears.
If you can’t explain to your partner why chewing gum bugs you, you could end up like one of the women on Murderess Row in Chicago the Musical (hopefully not, but you get the point).
When you understand why something bugs you, or why you desperately love something, you are one step closer to appreciating who you are. We all want to be what Olivia Pope refers to as a “boss and not a bitch-baby,” right? Fully recognizing the why behind the what will allow you to do that and to appreciate your uniqueness more.
How to create healthy boundaries for self:
- Creating boundaries for yourself involves having an honest conversation about what you need to change to make yourself happier
Boundaries should allow you to feel empowered to make decisions that feel good. There were periods in my life where I didn’t feel empowered to make my own decisions. I constantly feared telling people how I felt about something because of how they may react to it. This was detrimental to my identity, and to my emotional state. I was constantly angry, tired, and frustrated because people would treat me a certain way, invade my privacy, or tell me how I should feel about something. I did not set limits on what was acceptable for me to share with others, thus I was constantly expected to share myself because that’s what people were used to.
Making decisions about what you need to change in order to become happier, healthier, and more successful is HARD. Really hard. No one wants to deal with insecurity, or to focus on areas in their lives that need help, but combating them can help you figure out a great deal about your boundaries and how others can respect them. Once you have this conversation with yourself, you will love and respect yourself so much more, and then you can create boundaries that reflect these self-revelations.
- Make a list of your goals, and examine whether your priorities are helping you achieve those goals.
Setting short and long-term goals is the foundation to achieving things. We know this. You should figure out your goals so you can create action steps that are focused on achieving success and actualizing the things that are important to you.
What we often don’t do when we’re creating goals, however, is examine whether or not we have the necessary boundaries in place to help us achieve those goals.
Always ask yourself: Is this action going to help me get to my goal? If it’s not, you should be able to say no to it. Prioritizing your time should be focused on achieving your goal, and setting boundaries that reflect where you'll spend your time can often help you predict whether you’ll be successful.
- Be direct and learn to say “No”
We’ve all done it. We’ve said “yes” to doing things that we don’t want to, or don’t have time to do, and those actions can cause unnecessary stress, anxiety, and become an emotional and physical drain in our lives.
Practicing self-awareness is key to understanding our limits, and whether we have the personal capacity to say “yes” to doing something. We also have to be mentally and physically okay with saying no. It can be difficult to tell a coworker, spouse, friend, or partner that we can’t do something, but doing that in advance protects you, and can more often than not, protect your relationship with that person.
Living your best life involves self awareness, and examination, and learning your boundaries are crucial to that process.