Setting Boundaries and Sticking to Them

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We all know boundaries are important and that we need to set them for ourselves, the people we love, and especially for the people we don’t like so much. Still, setting boundaries can be one of the most difficult practices to maintain. That’s why, like any practice, setting boundaries has to be practiced! So, I thought it might be helpful to offer a few “simple” steps to help you practice the practice of setting boundaries.

Set Your Core Needs, Desires, and values

It’s impossible to set boundaries for yourself and others if you have no idea what you want and need out of life, as well as the rules by which you wish you live. So, the very first thing you’ll need to consider when creating boundaries is who you are, what you stand for, and what you absolutely refuse to live without. This will take introspection and lots of self-awareness, which is the key to all successful practices.

Change Yourself

Once you have come up with a set of boundaries that need to be set (based on your needs, desires, and values), accept the fact that other people cannot be changed, therefore, in order for your boundaries to be effective, you’ll have to change yourself. This means you’ll have to erect your boundaries immediately, adhere to them just as quickly, and announce them to others when the opportunities arise.

For instance, if you need to spend less time on your phone and more time focused on yourself, you will create strict new phone and communication boundaries for yourself and others. You’ll keep your phone on Do Not Disturb all day and night, checking for missed calls and texts every few hours, once you’ve taken a break from your work, studies, family, or self-care. When your day is done, and you’ve got time to return calls and texts, you’ll let everyone know you are no longer answering communications at all hours of the day and night. You will let them know when they can expect to hear form you in non-emergency situations, and when you’ll be able to hang out in person to catch up, fully. Done.

Set Rewards and Consequences for Yourself and Others

Sticking to your boundaries is the only way they will ever work, and it’s the only way other people will take you seriously. Also, sticking to your boundaries is a sure-fired way to gain confidence in yourself. So, put your foot down! This is the way things are going to be. That’s it and that’s all! To help you do this, you’ll been to incorporate consequences for yourself and for others, when your boundaries are ignored.

The best way to set consequences, is to first set rewards! For instance, if you’ve had a great week, gotten all your personal and professional tasks completed, all while sticking to your boundaries, give yourself a treat day. This would be a day that you treat yourself to a drink and a meal at your favorite bar, a massage, time with friends, etc. And in the event that you have fallen short of your personal or professional goals and boundaries, take that treat away from yourself –– you haven’t earned it. Instead, soak in the bath, make a meal at home, and reset your boundaries or the week ahead.

Take this same approach with other people. If a friend has not respected your boundaries this week, after you have made them clear, that friend doesn’t get a call back this week. Maybe she gets a text, letting her know you’ll call her next week, maybe she gets nothing. The point is, we all have to teach people how to treat us, and when someone ignores our boundaries, it’s disrespectful.

So, when someone says, “I know you said you need your space, but…,” take that as a sign of defiant disrespect, and deal with it accordingly. Always take your well-being and self-care bubble very seriously. It is often the only thing that keeps us from falling apart.