Setting Boundaries:  How To Start Setting Personal Boundaries Right Now

It might come as a surprise to you, but one of the best ways to improve your life is to learn to set boundaries… that is, if you have a problem with setting boundaries in the first place.  If you’re a woman in the United States, there’s a good chance you do.

 

Here are a few signs that you need to learn to set personal boundaries:

  • You agree to do things you don’t want to do.
  • You agree to do things you don’t have time to do.
  • You have a hard time standing up for yourself.
  • You tolerate rude comments.
  • You tolerate pushy people.
  • You dislike conflict.
  • You take things too personally.

If you can relate to any of that, chances are you do need to learn to set some boundaries.  By creating stronger boundaries you’ll be free from the obligation of always saying yes, and also can learn to be a more confident and rounded person.

Here are some steps to get started on the right path.

The first step is being self-aware. What this means is that you have to start paying attention and taking notes when you feel like you want to cry, when you lose energy or when you feel a knot forming in your stomach. Acknowledging your mind and soul when it says “Hey I need space and respect” is a huge part of taking back some of your personal power.  

You might want to start saying mantras to help you change your mindset and take back some control.

Obviously your mantras are yours, but here are some examples of mantras that might work for you.  

People may not-[insert your mantra here]

  • Criticize me
  • Comment about my weight
  • Humiliate me
  • Invade my personal bubble

To protect myself it’s okay to-[insert your mantra here]

  • Say no
  • Turn off the phone
  • Change my mind
  • Take time to think things through
  • Cancel a commitment
  • Quite volunteer activities that are draining of my personal resources

I have every right to ask for-[insert your mantra here]

  • Peace and quiet
  • Privacy
  • More information
  • Time to myself
  • Help

The second step is to start setting your boundaries.  Obviously this will be uncomfortable at first, so start simple.  Use firm words with a neutral tone.  Even this will be hard at first, but as you get more comfortable you’ll slowly start to feel yourself regaining your personal power.

 

Here are the steps to successfully have those boundary-setting conversations.

Before trying to set boundaries for the first time find someone who can support you before and after the conversations that need to be had.  If you don’t have anyone in real life, take to Reddit or somewhere else online to find a virtual friend to support you. If that’s not plausible either, consider finding a therapist. Talkspace is a good option if a local therapist is hard to come by, unaffordable, or if you’re more comfortable chatting via text. AKA: There is no excuse to NOT finding someone to support you. You want to make sure you’re venting your strongest emotions before you have any boundary conversations. 

When having the conversation use firm, neutral and direct language.  Remember that setting boundaries is about keeping you healthy.  So try not to get caught in a trap of over explaining your feelings, debating your reasons or defending them.  If you’re met with some sort of resistance, repeat your statement firmly, but remember to also always be as gracious and respectful as you can be. Never give in once you’ve set a boundary.  The moment you back down is the moment that others start ignoring your needs.

If you’re wondering what types of things you should say.  Here are some examples:

 

If you’re trying to set boundaries with your personal time you might say something like…

  • “I’ve made the decision to stop taking work calls in the evening, you can send me an email with the information and I’ll respond as soon as I’m work in the morning”.
  • If you’re putting boundaries between you and volunteer work maybe try something like…
  • “While the blood bank is very important to me and I know you’re short staffed, I am not able to work the extra day you requested I work.  I can help you find a replacement by the end of the week, but starting next week I won’t be available for that shift”.

If you need time to think…

  • “I will need to think about it. I don’t make big decisions right away”.
  • If you frequently deal with someone who is angry try…
  • “You may not yell at me.  If you continue to yell I will need to leave the room until you’ve calmed down enough to have a calm discussion”.

You’ll have to come up with the boundary-setting sentence that you need to use, but you should have a good idea now of the general direction to go.

The third step to successful boundary setting is to continually strengthen your resolution on setting boundaries.  The best way to do this is to create some armor against attacks by using an internal shield.  Many women in particular tend to let things that are said about them become the truth.  But, instead when someone calls you stupid, or arrogant, or a bad mother, follow these steps before internalizing what you’ve been told as the truth.

  • First, ask yourself how much of what they’re saying is true. Be honest, but not overly critical with yourself.
  • Next, ask yourself how much of what they’re saying is about them. Once again, be honest, but not overly critical.
  • Last and most importantly, ask yourself what you need to do to stand up for yourself and set some boundaries with the person in offense.

Quickly let’s refer back to that first question.  What if what they’re saying is true? Well, then it’s time to make some changes in you because you’re worthy of those changes!

And that’s it! You have the power within yourself to make the changes you need to make and to stand up for yourself.