Setting Boundaries is a Sign of Self Respect
When we find it difficult to set boundaries, many times it’s because we feel like if we do, we’re not being respectful to the other people involved. In reality, if we don’t set boundaries the person we’re disrespecting most is ourselves. Think about it, it’s your time that isn’t being used how you planned. Or comfort level that isn’t being respected. Or mental health needs that aren’t being met.
When we learn how to set boundaries in a healthy way, we are respecting ourselves, as well as making room for an honest and realistic relationship with others around us that won’t cause burnout.
Let’s look at an example: You made dinner plans with your friends that you’re so excited about! You haven’t seen them in weeks due to conflicting schedules. At 3:30, your boss asks if you can stay late tonight to finish up a project.
There are two immediate ways that you could resolve this conflict:
a.) Tell your boss you can stay late. You don’t want to disrespect them by telling them you already had plans, and you don’t want them to think you’re not committed to the job. You might have to miss part or all of dinner with your friends.
b.) Let your boss know that you’re sorry, but you aren’t able to stay late. Try to come up with a different resolution to the problem together.
It’s probably clear to most of us that Option A is the easier choice – we’ve all been there! Nobody wants to look bad in front of their bosses, and dinner with friends may not seem like a good enough excuse to leave work. But when we think through the scenario, we see that we aren’t respecting the plans we made with ourselves (or with our friends). We know that we’re team players at work, and that had we had further notice there would’ve been a greater chance that we could stay late and help…so let’s just tell our boss that!
“I’m sorry, but I’m not able to work past 5:30 today. In the future, I’d be open to staying late to work on projects, but I’d really appreciate a few more days notice so I can work my schedule around it”BOOM. Boundary set. Your boss knows that you’re serious about the work you do for them, but that you’re also serious about your boundaries.
What are some other amazing side effects to setting boundaries?
People are going to be much more likely to respect your boundaries from the start if you’ve shown them how important they are to you. Say your Mom keeps calling during work hours, and that’s not something you’re comfortable with. The longer you skirt around the problem, or downplay it as a preference, the more she’ll call you without thinking twice about it. The sooner you can set your boundary by saying “Mom, I’d love to talk to you about this, but please do not call me during work hours anymore” the sooner she’ll realize how serious you are. Give her a call after work, or tell her what times you are available. These are all things that can set a boundary, while helping manifest healthy habits in that relationship.
Here are some prompts to journal on that could help you with setting boundaries.
- What is the boundary I want to set here?
- Why is this boundary important to me?
- What are some alternative options I can give this person?
- It could be a better time to talk, a different option for how to communicate, or nothing!
- How will I benefit from setting this boundary?
- How will my relationship with the other person benefit from setting this boundary?
Finally, a few quick tips about setting boundaries.
1. Avoid using the word “but”.
The word “but” often creates a situation where the person on the receiving end feels like the first part of your sentence is negated. Think of the example “I love you but I need space.” Replace it with AND and this allows the feeling that both parts of the sentence are EQUALLY importance. “I love you and I need space.”
2. Avoid labeling or name calling
If you call the person you are trying to set a boundary with “needy” or “annoying” or any other unflattering adjective, they are likely to go into defense mode. Stick with how you feel.
3. Start with empathy if possible.
If you have a “soft start” to your boundary and start by acknowledging the person or how much you care about them, it can make the boundary much more effective.