By setting your boundaries, you are telling others how you want and expect to be treated. You are setting the limits about who can come into your space and what you what you expect of others once they are there.  This includes how you want to be spoken to, touched, and treated psychologically and emotionally.

Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and a healthy life. Setting and keeping boundaries is a skill.  Unfortunately, it is a skill many do not learn. We may pick up pointers here and there from experience or through watching others, but for many boundary building is a relatively new and challenging concept.  Healthy boundaries means knowing and understanding what your limits are. 

How do I set boundaries?

Name your limits: Be sure of where you stand, identify your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits.  What can you tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed.  These feelings identify your limits.

Tune into your feelings: Two key feelings that are red flags or cues that we are letting go of our boundaries are, discomfort and resentment. Measure these feelings on a scale of 1-10, above 6 is high. If you find yourself at the higher end of the scale during a interaction or in a situation, ask yourself what is causing that? Resentment usually comes from being taken advantage of or not appreciated. It is a sign we are pushing our own limits, guilt or someone else is imposing their expectations, views or values on us.

Be direct: Those who have a different personality or cultural background, you may need to be more direct about your boundaries. In a romantic relationship is another time you may have to be more direct, time can become a boundary issue. Partners may need to talk about how much time they need to maintain their sense of self and how much time to spend together.

Give yourself permission: Fear, guilt and self-doubt are potential pitfalls. We may fear the other persons response, we may feel guilty by speaking up and saying no.  Some may wonder if they even deserve to have boundaries in the first place.  Boundaries are not just a healthy relationship they are a sign of self-respect.  One must give yourself permission to set boundaries and work to preserve these.

Practice self-awareness: Boundaries are all about honing in on your feelings and honouring them. 

Consider your past and present: How you were raised, your role in the family can become obstacles in setting and keeping boundaries. Think about the people you surround yourself with, are they relationship reciprocal?  Is there a healthy give and take?

Make self-care a priority: Give yourself permission to put yourself first. This strengthens our need and motivation to set boundaries. Self-care also means recognizing the importance of your feelings they serve as important cues about our well being and what makes us happy and unhappy. Putting yourself first gives you the energy, peace of mind and positive outlook to be more present with others and be there for them.

Seek support: A group, church, counselling, coaching or good friends. 

Be assertive: It is not enough to create boundaries, we have to follow through. People are not mind readers and can not be expected to know what hurts us.  Communicate in a respectful way with the other person when they have crossed a boundary.  

Start small: Assertively communicating one’s boundaries takes courage, practice and support. Start with a small boundary that is not threatening to you.  Build upon your success and master your skill.

Benefits of setting boundaries

Setting boundaries ensures relationships can be mutually respectful, appropriate and caring. If you are not setting healthy boundaries you will set them in unhealthy ways. 

More compassion: It is kind and respectful to tell people what is ok and what is not ok with you, this sets clear expectations.

Greater assertiveness: Boundaries are a way of asserting your needs. Setting boundaries will help you develop assertive skills that will help you in all aspects of your life.

Your needs are met: We all deserve to have our emotional and physical needs met, some we meet ourselves and some are met in a relationship. When you speak up and ask for what you need you are more likely to get it.

Less anger and resentment: Without boundaries we over commit, over spend and do things that conflict with our values. We spend time on things that are not important to us, and we are mistreated. When we set limits and speak up for ourselves communicating our needs and expectations clearly we are less likely to feel anger and resentment.

Feeling of peace and safety: Boundaries protect us, from physical and emotional harm. This includes violence, unwanted touch, verbal abuse and manipulation. Boundaries provide emotional freedom from self-criticism and second guessing yourself. If boundaries are not set shame and self-doubt kick in, criticizing yourself for not asking for respect and allowing others to mistreat you. When boundaries are set one feels empowered and safe.

Time and energy to do things: When you say no to things you do not want to do and people who drag you down, you can say yes to spending time with people who fill you up emotionally, activities that interest you that you enjoy and a happier, healthier self.