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Setting Healthy Boundaries

Setting Healthy Boundaries is essential to mental well-being. For a lot of people, we don’t realize how much this greatly affects us. This may seem like a confusing process for some so these 8 tips for setting healthy boundaries will help simplify the process for you today. 

1. Identify the Boundaries

Clearly Identify your boundaries. These can be physical or emotional. Physical Boundaries tend to be more easily identifiable. “I don’t like it when people hug me.” “I don’t like it when people stand too close to me.” With emotional boundaries, it can be a little harder to identify. A good rule of thumb, if it hurts you emotionally or causes you stress then your boundary is being crossed. For the sake of this exercise, I’ll use my own personal experience. My mother and I had always been very close. As I started to grow into adulthood, I began to want to make more decisions for my life. My mother would always say, “well, you should…” and immediately my mind went back to being a child and an emotional boundary was crossed. 

2. Ask Yourself Why

Why did this bother me so much? It felt like it was robbing me of the opportunity to make decisions for myself. Part of becoming “an adult” is gaining confidence in the decisions we make. Whether they are effective or ineffective, we learn from our experience. Why did I need the boundary? I needed the boundary for my own internal security. 

3. What are the Consequences?

This is when you decide what happens if your request is not respected. I was working in Los Angeles and my mother kept doing this even across the country. When I addressed the boundary, I told her that if she continued to cross this boundary, I would end the phone call and then we would talk again the next day. 

4. Be Direct

Part of setting boundaries is being direct in communication. Make sure you’re both on the same page and don’t be vague. If it’s a continual occurrence that bothers you then you have a right to speak into your needs. Try using this formula: 

Example: When you _______ it makes me feel________. What I need is ____________. 

My Experience: When you tell me what to do, it makes me feel like you think I’m incapable of making my own decisions. What I need is to make my own decisions, right or wrong. I need the confidence to trust myself as I become an adult.

5. Don't Apologize

Always remember, you are not doing anything wrong by setting a healthy boundary. You don’t have to apologize for enforcing it. 

6. Set Tight Boundaries

It’s easier to loosen boundaries than tighten them. When I first set the boundary with my mother, the consequence was that I would end the call and we wouldn’t have contact for at least 24 hours. She hated this but it was important to me. Later this boundary loosened and if she slipped up, I would offer a warning before ending the call. If she chose to engage in the behavior, then I would end the call. 

7. Address Violations

After the boundary is set, it’s time to start addressing violations. Do this early. Don’t wait for repeat violations and then explode. Remember the other person is engaging in a behavior that they’ve probably done for years. This does not mean that “it’s just the way they are.” They still need to be addressed but give the person a chance to alter their behavior by letting them know when they engage in it. Setting Healthy Boundaries often takes time.

8. Stand Firm in Setting Boundaries

If something is making you feel uneasy, trust your gut, and stand firm in your convictions. I’m happy to report that my mother has changed her behavior. I mean she’s still a mom so it’s hard for her but now she asks, “Can I offer a suggestion?” Sometimes I take them and sometimes I don’t, but it’s given me the right to choose how I live my life and offered me a chance to grow into my own identity.