How Do I Set Boundaries?
Boundaries can sound like limits, but setting boundaries is essential. Consider your yard. A fence keeps out harmful impacts like deer or intruders and keeps the good stuff in like your pets or kids. Boundaries do not have to be physical limits, they can also include emotional ones. These can protect your mental health, independence, and peace. Boundaries offer you space to grow, heal, and develop without constant external influences.
The Importance of Boundaries
Everyone's boundaries will be different, and they will change with you. You may have a set of boundaries for family members, another set for romantic partners, and another for coworkers. These are guidelines for your relationships. They don't have to be strict rules, but having your needs met is important for your health and well-being.
When people break your boundaries, it can feel intrusive, stressful, and may even trigger a mental health problem. Identifying your boundaries, sharing them, and maintaining them is a great way to improve your relationships with others and yourself. To care for yourself and maintain mental well-being, you should set boundaries with those around you.
Essentially, boundaries are imaginary lines. When that line is crossed, you either feel angry, sad, anxious, or uncomfortable. Boundaries encourage you to put your own needs first. Even without setting boundaries, you have them, and when they are crossed, your mental health is at risk.
How to Decide on Your Boundaries
So, what are your boundaries? These will vary from person to person. You may set boundaries with your parents regarding your love life. You may not want to discuss politics with your family because you know it's never positive, only drains you, and never accomplishes anything. Things like this can not only prevent anxiety, they can improve bonds. It isn't about ignoring certain feelings or being in denial but focusing on what you need.
Continual overstepping can be a form of emotional trauma, so understanding what you need is important. Consider the parts of your relationships that make you uncomfortable or unhappy. This isn't about your partner not picking up their socks, but small comments they make could undermine your independence or confidence.
Depending on the relationship, consider what you need. Are you comfortable with the physical aspect of your relationship? Do you want more communication and verbal signals? Maybe your partner unknowingly criticizes you in private or even in public. Do you need space or comfort when you're upset? Do you need a certain amount of alone time? Is talking about a certain subject like having children, for instance, off the table with your parents? Maybe discussing religion or politics at work make you uncomfortable?
These may seem like small moments, but they add up. Even enduring a few of these momentary breaks in your comfort can lead to unpleasant feelings and further struggles with facing stress, socializing, or communicating. Reflecting on what you need from friends, family, or partners is the first step in setting boundaries.
How to Set Boundaries
When you are setting boundaries, you don't want to attack someone in your life with what they've been doing wrong. It can help to write down your feelings, work through your emotions, and list your boundaries so they are clear and understandable.
You want to be honest with whomever you are setting boundaries with. For instance, if you want to set a boundary with a family member who oversteps by calling you throughout the night or relying on you for things they can do themselves, you may wait until they call or ask for a favor to have the conversation. Maybe you want to bring it up and start a conversation, or you may wait for them to bring it up and shut it down from there.
Directly state what you need and why. Let them know that their behavior is stressing you out. You love and care about them but need to put your mental health first. Let them know you won't be answering their calls after a certain hour and stick to it. Breaking your own boundaries undermines your needs. Others may be upset with your request at first, but don't feel guilt for protecting your own peace and health. These boundaries may be what help you and your partner regain trust, or you and a sibling reconnect without codependence.
If you notice your boundaries being crossed, say something. Let them know they are crossing a line with you, and you are not okay with that. You don't need to be angry or aggressive. Just let them know that their behavior makes you uncomfortable. The same goes for other relationships. If a coworker jokes about a celebrity breakdown when you struggle with the same mental illness, let them know you don't appreciate their comment and would like them not to make such comments around you.
Stick to your words and remain confident. You deserve to feel comfortable and safe at work, at home, and around others. There is nothing wrong with letting others know when your boundaries have been crossed. Some people may act immediately, while it will take their time to learn your comfort zone and how to remedy their behaviors, but that is okay. Continue to share how you feel. In some cases, you may need to distance yourself from someone, but if that is what you need to feel emotionally and mentally well, then it is necessary.
Setting boundaries is an important part of interpersonal relationships, especially if you struggle with a mental illness or a substance use problem. Putting your needs first is not only okay but encouraged. At California Care Detox & Treatment, we help you build up the confidence to set boundaries and maintain them. Our therapists will work with you to determine your needs and develop the skills needed to address them with the people in your life. You do not have to sit back and allow your lines to be crossed. Once you've understood your needs and worked to address them, you can find comfort and security in all aspects of your life. We are here to help you find mental and emotional wellness through individualized care and treatment. Reach out to us now for more information on our mental health program. Call us at (949) 281-0632.