Setting Boundries in Our Daily Lives
Setting boundaries is a term that has been floating through the pop-psychology circuit for some time now. As much as it appears like a sophisticated technique to adopt and practice within our relationships, quite simply it is the art of saying no, or setting limits on what you are willing to handle. Unfortunately, there are plenty of folks in the world who are either people-pleasers or afraid of disappointing and hurting others.
Being a people-pleaser or worrying about how you affect others means you put yourself last. There’s nothing wrong with being a giving, selfless person, yet how can you bring the best of yourself to the ones you love when you aren’t taking care of your needs? When you are always saying yes: to your boss, your needy friend, your sensitive colleague, your demanding child or family member, you immediately devote your energy to them and reduce the amount of time you have to meet your needs, such as:
- The need for peace and quiet
- The need to focus on solving your own problems
- The need for self-care
- The need to pursue your goals and dreams with committed actions
- The need to experience your emotional responses
- The need to complete important projects
- The need to keep your life in balance….however that looks for you
Ultimately, setting boundaries in our relationships actually helps to preserve very important things in our lives. Saying no to …….means saying yes to…….? You fill in the blanks. If I say yes to my lonely friend’s request to have me join her at an event that will exhaust me, I’m saying no to my own needs. If I say yes to my employer’s request for me to stay overtime, I am saying no to my need to decompress/ work out/ make a decent dinner/ spend time with my loved ones/ socialize….etc. If I say no, however, I’m saying yes to my needs.
The secret lies in how to say no gracefully. In the case of the boss: “I understand the deadline pressure here, and unfortunately I have commitments this evening that I need to keep.” Keep it ambiguous, and use the word commitment. In the case of the friend or family member that you can’t really be ambiguous with “It’s important for me to be there/support you/ participate, and I feel I need to ………for my greater good.” Avoid apologizing or buying into hurt feelings. Relationships are a 2 way street, and the other person should recognize that if you are expressing your needs, along with your willingness to take responsibility for your needs, then there is no need to apologize or feel guilty.
Setting boundaries takes practice over time, and it can be quite terrifying. It can be awkward at first, as you speak in a way that’s unnatural to you, and as you’re conscious that it’s very unnatural for the people who know you to hear you speak this way too. Some might be shocked or take it personally at first. Be prepared for this, because it’ll be worth it in the long run. The interesting thing is that after enough time, people really respect boundaries. Â Setting limits and declining gracefully shows self-respect, and it demonstrates clear limits or parameters. People respond well to clear, simple messages. “I’d love to, thank you, and I’m committed my wellness plan, so I’m going to stick to my workout tonight.” An easy way to start setting boundaries is to let calls go to voicemail and practice checking in with yourself on how you’d like to maintain your commitment to meeting your needs. When this is clear for you, then return the call. For more techniques on setting boundaries, I’ve found this book by Patti Breitman invaluable “How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty: And Say Yes to More Time, and What Matters Most to You”.
Photo credit: Flickr user Sydigill