I find I’m most anxious around people who make it impossible for me to set healthy boundaries. Whether intentional or not, people who don’t respect when you are trying to say no or simply negotiate your needs can be really difficult to manage.
And because of this difficulty, I often find myself adjusting my boundaries or going back on the statements I made just to keep the peace and avoid the uncomfortable feelings.
Guess where this leads? To the happy town called resentment!
It is rare that me adjusting and trying to be flexible is really worth it. And rarely does the person disrespecting my boundaries recognize that they pushed them.
And this is on me! If I’m really assertive in my boundary setting, then my boundaries are crystal clear. You won’t end up resenting this person for pressuring you into making a different decision, and you’ll feel empowered at the end of the day (once the uncomfortableness wears off anyway!).
Check out these tips on how to set healthy boundaries and gain your power back!
Defining Your Boundaries
Figuring out how to set healthy boundaries can be challenging. My biggest advice here is to pay attention to your feelings.
Example: If someone asks me to go to dinner last minute when I had a full night planned for me and my Netflix account, I might feel some kind of way in the pit of my stomach. Maybe I really needed a self-care night, or don’t do well with last minute plans (both of which are true!). That might tell me that I need to set a boundary.
Yes, I’d love to go to dinner, but are you available Thursday instead?
Your friend might be bummed, or not available any other nights this week. This is where you have to be ok with disappointing people.
I would also be weighing the pros and cons. If I go, I forfeit my solo night and risk resentment, but might also get some rejuvenating with my friend. Or I reschedule, and feel guilty for saying no and making someone feel sad.
Both are ok! But both need to be my choice, not because I’m avoiding feeling uncomfortable. That just leads to resentment!
I need to ask myself, “is it worth it to adjust my boundaries?”
Be Consistent & Firm
Inconsistency communicates that you aren’t firm in your boundaries. This could be true because you don’t know what your boundaries are yet (see above!).
Once you have figured out where your boundaries are, don’t confuse your family, friends, and coworkers with your wishy-washy approach. Again, avoiding disappointing people or being uncomfortable is not a good reason to adjust your boundaries.
If someone thinks they can bug you enough to where you ultimately will change your decision, they will bug bug bug. If they know your first answer stays your final answer, they will back off on the pressure.
You don’t have to be insensitive or rude by being firm about your boundaries. You can respectfully say, “that’s not something I am able to agree to at this time. I know that is disappointing.” And that’s it! No wishy-washy here.
Say What You are Willing to Do
Setting firm boundaries does not mean you can’t negotiate. It is just that the boundary itself is non-negotiable.
Let’s say you’re being asked to come into work an hour earlier than normal, and this is outside of your job description. Maybe you’ve set an internal boundary that the earliest you are willing to come in is 8 AM. It would be really uncomfortable to say no, but you can offset this uncomfortableness with what you are willing to do.
Maybe you’re willing to stay an hour later. Or maybe you’re willing to do it one time, but explain clearly that this is a unique situation. I find I set more rigid boundaries when I feel like I’m going to be taken advantage of. What starts as just one morning of coming in early could turn into an expectation later on. Communicate those boundaries firmly and stick to them!
Practice saying, “Sorry, I can’t agree to that, but this is what I can offer you instead.” Will it fix the uncomfortableness? Maybe not. But at the end of the day, you feel empowered!
Understand What Healthy Boundaries Are NOT
Ok, you might be thinking “It’s not all about me. I need to be thinking of other people.” I agree! But, what you might be doing is confusing boundaries with flexibility vs. inflexibility.
Boundaries are not meant be all about what you want. Healthy boundaries are all about what you need. What you want is where you can be flexible, and what you need requires a boundary. Let me explain.
Let’s say you have a friend who is asking for your help to move. Since they are moving themselves, they are needing help all weekend. They have asked you to be their right hand man.
However, you have other things going on this weekend, like maybe going to church on Sunday or lunch plans with your mom. So, you counter the ask with what you are willing and able to do. You tell her, “I have a few things I’m obligated to this weekend, but I could help you after church on Sunday.”
One could argue that you could try to reschedule your lunch with Mom or miss out on church this week. And if you feel like that would be ok for you, then go for it! Leaving your plans as they are and working with your friend is called negotiating your needs.
This need might be a sense of control over what you’re doing this weekend. You might have a busy week coming up and want to be sure you have some downtime. Guess what? It’s all ok. You are allowed to keep those plans without being selfish.
Imagine if you cancelled all of your plans and helped your friend exactly how she asked. This is where resentment thrives. And who knows? Your friend might be totally understanding and appreciate whatever help you can give. Win!
Healthy Boundary Takeaways
- Disrespected or abandoned boundaries leads to resentment.
- Learn to be ok disappointing people or feeling a little uncomfortable.
- It is not selfish to set boundaries.
- Boundaries are negotiating what you need.
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