How do you know if you need to set boundaries?

Have you ever felt frustrated or angry because people keep taking up your time with their requests?

Or maybe you feel like you never get a say in your relationships? Maybe it feels like people walk all over you?

Have you ever felt like the people in your life don’t see you or consider your feelings or time constraints?

If so, you likely are in need of some boundaries.

So, how do you set boundaries?

Like any other skill in life, you’ll have to practice…which means you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. (I’ve been going at this for 5 years and I’m STILL learning and growing.) If you mess up or get walked all over from time to time, don’t worry. You. Are. Normal! We learn EVERYTHING through trial and error.

But also like any other skill, each time you work your boundary-setting muscle, you’ll get stronger and before long, it won’t be hard at all to set boundaries, anticipate your boundaries, and pivot quickly when you allow someone to cross your boundaries …or you encounter a new place you need a boundary.  (Do you think I could say the word “boundaries” any more??? Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries. Ha ha ha!)

Here’s the practical guide to setting boundaries and feeling more in control of your life and happier in your relationships:

Name your limits

What can you tolerate and accept? What makes you uncomfortable or stressed? If you don’t know…listen to your feelings (I know I’m a broken record at this point, but they are THE KEY to everything you want in life.) Notice when you’re feeling mistreated, misused, annoyed, controlled, out of control, angry, anxious, or stressed out. Those emotions aren’t “bad”…they serve a purpose. They are alarm bells to let you know your boundaries have been crossed!

Don’t be afraid to be direct

There’s one thing I know for sure. While we all have a myriad of talents, mind reading ain’t one of them. If someone is crossing your boundary, especially if they are doing it repeatedly, it’s ok to be very clear (WITH WORDS, YOU GUYS…not social cues) about what is ok with you and what is not ok.

Give yourself permission

Let me say this again…maybe a little louder for the people in the back…healthy relationships MUST include boundaries. Maybe you were raised in a culture or a family without them like I was. You may feel like “always saying yes = love”. You may worry if you deserve to have your needs considered and taken care of. If you want a healthy life and healthy relationships…the answer is to SET BOUNDARIES. You cannot have close, trusting relationships without them. (It’s scientifically proven, you guys. Give yourself permission.)

Start small

If you’ve set few or no boundaries in the past, this is going to be a big change. Choose a small boundary that isn’t threatening to you and then increase incrementally to more challenging boundaries. Build on your success.

Consider your circumstances

Many of us got our beliefs about boundaries early in life. You may have picked up that self-care isn’t ok from your mom when she put EVERYONE else first and rarely if ever took time out for herself. Or you may have been the oldest and were expected to be the caretaker for other children. Maybe your parents were alcoholics and you had to be the person that was responsible for everyone else. Or maybe you were raised in a culture that told you what to do all of the time and you never thought that you could have your own voice.

When we pick up these kinds of limiting beliefs early in life, before our prefrontal cortex is online, these beliefs go straight to our subconscious where they are harder to become aware of and harder to access. Your emotions (again…broken record, remember) are going to be the key to helping you access the thoughts knocking around in that primitive space.

And last…

Seek support

If you’ve grown up in an environment where having boundaries is considered “bad”, seek help from a coach, therapist, or even just a support group, church group, or good friends who have good boundaries. Their support will help you overcome the guilt as you step into this new space.