There is a need for a range of different types of boundaries in your life, because they apply in various mind, body, and soul human experiences.
This includes recognising and talking about your own self-care needs (what you eat, how you move your body, or how many hours of sleep you require). It also includes being clear about sharing your personal space (home, office, or bedroom), and what you will and will not discuss (relating to your body, sexuality, weight, or appearance).
Mental and Emotional Boundaries
You are not responsible for the mental and emotional states of those around you. You do not need to ‘save’ others or keep everyone happy. Always meeting the needs of others is impossible and exhausting to the detriment of your own mental and physical wellbeing.
Recognising that you cannot be responsible for another person’s state, will help you to stop feeling compelled to allow others to repeatedly vent to you, or emotionally dump (a repetitive coping strategy that isn’t for the purpose of seeking guidance or finding a solution).
You realise that it is not necessary for you to fix, please or agree with others all the time. You can take your time to respond to messages when you feel more able to.
If you have to spend time with certain individual’s or in difficult family situations, you can choose an environment where there are other people such as a restaurant or an outdoor social space. You can choose to set a time limit on how long you will stay. You can choose to meet for a coffee rather than a day trip out.
Boundaries not only keep us physically safe; they also support emotional safety.
How to Set Boundaries
Awareness of your limits is required to help you to define your boundaries. Who or what makes me feel uncomfortable? Tune into your physical sensations to connect to your intuition. How does something or someone register in your body? How does your body feel? Does it tighten and constrict, or feel relaxed and spacious?
When a request or invitation is made it is helpful to say: I first need to check and I’ll get back to you. This gives you an opportunity away from them to feel it in your body.
When you’ve checked and you reply, saying less is best. Resist the urge to over explain or defend yourself. You do not need to give a reason or justify why. For example you could say:
- On this occasion it’s not possible
- I am not able to
- I’m not available
- This isn’t doable for me
- Thanks for the offer/invite, that isn’t something I can do right now
Begin to practice setting boundaries in small ways with people and situations that have less emotional complications. Watch for a tendency to say ‘yes’ without thinking it through.
Practice upholding your limits in small ways like returning food at a restaurant if it isn’t cooked properly, it may be easier to reply ‘no’ via text or email instead of face to face, and saying ‘no’ to cold callers or people who offer you a service you do not need or want will give you opportunities to practice.
Once you become more comfortable saying ‘no’, then you can begin to define boundaries around work, friends, family members and romantic partner’s.