Top Skills Thursday: Boundaries

I’ve posted before about recognizing your limits, saying no, and taking time for yourself. But those things can be extra difficult if you don’t know how to set and hold your boundaries.

Not that boundaries are easy to master, or even hold to 100% of the time. They’re effective and necessary, though. There are a few things to know about setting boundaries and holding them as well. The first is that a boundary is not a reduction of someone else’s worth, but instead it’s necessary to maintain your mental and emotional space.

Are you a person who needs time alone after work to reset your brain before interacting with your family? Do you not want to have people hug you without warning? These are boundaries that do just that. 

Boundaries are necessary in every aspect of our lives, too. You need a time when you aren’t “on call” for your job. You need to be able to step away from your personal life and focus on your work. You can’t spend every minute with friends and family or you’ll have no time to do the things you need to do for yourself. You actually need your significant other to allow you space to watch your shows or listen to your music without criticism.

To set boundaries, you have to be able to see where you’re suffering. Where do you need space? What is happening that is causing resentment and anger in you? What is leaving you so exhausted you don’t remember a day where you had energy? Do you want to set a boundary for yourself and stop eating fast food so you can have lower cholesterol?

Don’t try to set all the boundaries at one time. Pick one. Remember, these boundaries are about yourself, not about forcing anyone else to do something. If you pick a boundary and say “If that one gets violated I’ll never speak to that person again” that’s not okay unless the boundary is that you’re not going to accept someone abusing you. Those boundaries are an entirely different story than what I’m addressing right now. They have a place and are important, but let’s start with something simpler.

If you want your family to sit down and have a meal together, then you might set a boundary that you won’t answer calls during that meal time.

Let people know in advance. Explain your purpose and let them know you won’t be answering the phone during that time.

EXPECT that you’ll need to remind people about this change. Some will forget about that change, some will think it’s silly and not respect it. There’s no need to get angry about those people. You can provide simple, clear reminders. If it’s bad, turn the phone completely off during meals and encourage your family members to do the same.

If someone takes actual offense to the new boundary, don’t argue with them. Arguing doesn’t help. Just state that this is how you’re going to be doing things in the evening and end the discussion about the matter. Change the topic. If they try to push, tell them you’re not going to discuss it further.

The biggest thing to remember is that setting healthy boundaries is important for your health, in every sense. I encourage you to talk to your therapist about them, especially if you struggle with them. It’s okay for setting and holding boundaries to be a challenge. Most of us don’t get to learn how to manage those as we’re growing up. Just as it is with any skill, it takes time to learn and more to master.


All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.

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