Sometimes setting a boundary can be tough.
We’re — especially women — brought up to believe that selflessness is the best way to be.
When we’re taught that other people come first, the concept of setting a boundary can feel like foreign territory.
But setting healthy boundaries is essential for our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.
In a society that tells us to please others, keep the peace, and that saying no is unkind, how can we even begin to identify where our personal boundaries lie?
Can we get rid of the guilt we sometimes feel when putting ourselves first?
How do we begin to set boundaries that keep us safe, healthy, and happy?
Boundaries let other people know if you will or will not accept how they treat you in your life. They allow you to care for and protect yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Boundaries give a sense of control over your body and your feelings. They give us a sense of what our limits are and a way to communicate those limits.
There are two main types of boundaries:
Physical boundaries protect our physical space — this includes external touch or contact from others that we either invite or reject depending on what we feel comfortable with.
Emotional boundaries protect our emotional well-being. They involve feelings and emotions in response to something or someone and dictate what you may or may not allow according to what you feel comfortable with. They protect your right to have these feelings, thoughts, and beliefs without feeling criticized or invalidated for them.
You may also choose to set boundaries concerning how you spend your time, your finances, and how you practice your spirituality.
Boundaries can help improve our relationships and our self-esteem and help maintain enough energy for us to care for ourselves.
They also allow you to make yourself a priority, in doing what feels best and safest for you — whether it involves self-care, career, finances, or relationships.
Without strong and firm boundaries, your self-esteem and identity can be negatively impacted and may cause you to feel resentful toward others and in turn, damage relationships.
Healthy boundaries can also help you:
Get clear on what you want in your life
Honor your beliefs and values
Focus on yourself and your physical, emotional, and mental well-being
Develop a greater sense of independence
For some people though, boundaries were not something that we grew up observing, especially from other women in our lives.
Because of this, levels of depression, divorce, and anxiety are through the roof and our sense of overall joy has been dramatically diminished.
Why, you ask?
Let’s explore this further…
As women, we’re often told to “push things under the rug” or “if you don’t acknowledge that something is happening then maybe it will go away”. The message was also “been seen, not heard” so as not to upset other people. Well… it’s clear that this method never worked and certainly isn’t working for us now.
From childhood, we’re often taught to bend over backward to not hurt people’s feelings and to present ourselves in a way that makes other people more comfortable. Many of us were raised in a culture that expects women to always be polite and to please — and to not complain about it.
We have been taught to give and give everything of ourselves without question and sacrifice our own needs and well-being for others. To be selfless.
As a woman or someone who identifies as such, it might be hard for you to set boundaries because you don’t want people to think you’re rude or unkind when saying no or letting someone know you’re upset. You don’t want other people to see you as needy and demanding.
Or you simply don’t want to let anyone down.
That isn’t healthy for anyone. Poor or non-existent boundaries can lead to anxiety, resentment, and fallout in our relationships — both personally and professionally.
Some other reasons women may struggle with boundaries are:
It’s natural to want to perform well and receive positive feedback from others. Especially at work, or when doing something you really enjoy. But sometimes, you might end up becoming overly concerned with your performance and become highly sensitive to mistakes and negative feedback — even if it’s constructive. You might struggle to say no to others to please them, to prove your worth, or when you feel like you need to redeem yourself.
Social Conditioning and Guilt
Our identities are often related to how much we do for others. As women, we’re typically expected and demanded to be the ones who nurture and tend to other people’s emotions.
Wanting to feel like a good person is a — mostly — positive feeling. We might feel guilty when we say no or let other people down. But this feeling can keep us from having and maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves.
When our decisions and actions are motivated by guilt, it’s easy to forget to set necessary boundaries because we believe that prioritizing ourselves over others is wrong.
It can be hard to be affected by feelings of guilt. We all want to feel needed. But it’s not healthy to feel responsible for other people’s feelings or to always say yes when what you really want to do is say no.
To help get to the root of why you might be feeling these feelings, ask yourself:
As a child, what was I told about the importance of being liked, going with the flow, and saying yes?
About saying “no?”
What am I afraid will happen if I clearly and firmly set and enforce my boundaries?
Finding the answers to these questions can help you understand why it’s so hard to set a boundary and make the first steps to setting the ones that keep you happy and healthy.
Remember, you’re in charge.
Setting a boundary is like building muscle. You have to keep at it and practice it enough to allow it to become a part of your personal self-care routine until it becomes a natural way in which you interact with the world.
Remember, setting a boundary is simply a way in which we teach other people how to treat us, how we choose to interact, and what we are no longer willing to stand for.
Knowing how to identify where a boundary needs to be set may make it easier to say no to things that aren’t important or that may be causing you harm or discomfort — and to say yes to things that are important to you while still preserving your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Define Your Values
What are the things that are most important to you in your life? Do you value your alone time? Your independence? Honesty?
Make a list. Get really clear about this. Make a list.
Listen to your body
When setting a boundary, it helps to listen to your gut, follow your intuition and then speak from that space.
Practice checking in with your feelings and with your body. Is your heart pounding? Are you beginning to sweat? Does your stomach, throat, or chest feel tight? Is your jaw clenched?
It’s about reading your body as a whole.
When a boundary is crossed, you may feel powerless, confused, anxious, angry, or upset. Let your feelings lead you to where a boundary is needed. We’re constantly getting physical and emotional signals that give us clues as to when things aren’t right. Let your feelings and sensations guide you.
Communicate Your Boundaries Clearly
Once you’ve identified where a boundary needs to be set, it’s time to communicate what your boundary is. When communicating your boundaries it’s important to stand firm while enforcing them. Communicate your boundaries with kindness, clarity, and compassion without apologizing or feeling guilty. Be as clear, honest, kind, and direct as you can.
Learning how to set healthy personal boundaries is so necessary, but it can be really tough — especially at first.
So show yourself some compassion. Take care of your heart. Practice some self-care. Get into your body. Open your throat chakra. Ask for what you need. Reach out for support if you need it.
Because setting boundaries is not selfish.
They are not unkind.
They keep you healthy, happy, and safe.
It’s time we stop putting ourselves second (or third…or fourth…).
And put ourselves first.
I’m here if you need me.
If you need some help while identifying or setting a boundary, I’d love to support you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out or book a complimentary clarity call with me here.