Boundaries – What are they and how do you set them?

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.

Brene Brown

Boundaries is a word that most of us know, yet it has the power to evoke different emotions when mentioned. For some, boundaries are a saving grace. They provide the freedom to live authentically and have balance in relationships.

For others, boundaries are viewed as a wall that prevents connection to others.

If you resonate with the latter statement, chances are, you avoid boundaries like the plague. You may have heard of their importance, and possibly even awed at those that have been able to successfully set them with others.

As we all know, admiring something and putting something into practice are two different things. The unavoidable fact is that people with healthy boundaries are attractive. They know what they want and what they don’t want in relationships, and they aren’t afraid to let others know.

While the why of setting boundaries is clear, the how is not always as simple.

It can be tough to say no to the person that has always relied on you, or to set clear expectations about behaviors in a relationship. Boundaries aren’t always easy, but they are always necessary.

If you have the desire to set boundaries, here are four easy steps to begin implementing them in your life:

  • Define. It’s important for you to identify your boundaries. What is ok when it comes to your relationship, and what isn’t ok? Think about why you feel this way. Are your boundaries based on your values? Do they stem from a specific experience? Understanding your boundaries for yourself makes it much easier to communicate them with others. 
  • Communicate. Boundaries serve no purpose if they aren’t discussed. Communicate your boundaries clearly to the person. Say what you need without over explaining or apologizing. Your boundaries are in place for a reason. If someone respects you, they will respect your boundaries. 
  • Set consequences. It’s impossible to set boundaries without setting consequences. Think about speed limits on the road. We follow them because they keep us safe, but if we’re really honest, we follow them because we don’t want to get a ticket. The consequence shows the seriousness of the rule. The same can be said about relationships. If I set a boundary, but have no consequence, what motivation would someone have to follow it? Setting realistic consequences shows that the boundary is important to you, and it clearly expresses the seriousness to the other person. 
  • Follow through. The most important piece of boundary setting is following through. While it may not be fun to implement the consequences you’ve put in place, it communicates to the other person that you stand by what you say. This will likely be the toughest part of implementing boundaries, but if you stick with it, you’ll begin to see changes in the dynamics of your relationships.

Boundaries aren’t about pushing others away. They are about acknowledging your worth and expecting others to treat you accordingly. In this life, we teach people how to treat us.

What are your boundaries teaching others about you?

Written by: Salima Hart