Why It’s Important to Set Boundaries (and How to Stick to Them)

For many years, I was a people pleaser. I always said “yes” to avoid disappointing or upsetting others, agreed with opinions I didn’t believe and pretended everything was okay when it wasn’t. At the time I thought I was being nice and understanding, when in reality I was being a doormat. I should have spoken up for myself and didn’t realize that failing to set boundaries slowly chipped away at my self-worth.

This raises the question: why do so many of us have such a tough time setting boundaries and sticking to them? It’s because we’re afraid. Afraid the person will be upset or angry. Afraid we won’t be liked. Afraid we will break up.

However, setting boundaries is part of self-growth. A boundary honors yourself and your well-being. It comes from a place of love. It shows you respect yourself.

For example, let’s say you have a relative who asks intrusive questions about your personal life at every family gathering. You feel the judgement and cringe, wanting to tell them to mind their own business, but instead you respond with the truth. You leave the conversation feeling a mix of anger and resentment, because you didn’t set a boundary.

In this case, the best response is “thank you for asking, but I prefer to keep that part of my life private.” This is polite yet firm, and communicates that you are uncomfortable talking about that topic.

Another common scenario is a friend who is constantly complaining. She’s a good person, but you leave every interaction feeling drained by her negativity. Rather than seeing this friend once a week, you can set a boundary that you only see her once a month.

3 Steps to Set Boundaries

  1. Validate your own feelings

The first step is to get clear on how you feel and what you want. Forget about the opinions of others. This includes asking for advice. You will likely get mixed responses, which will only make you more confused and overwhelmed.

For instance, let’s imagine your friend isn’t the best communicator when it comes to resolving conflict. She ignores your calls when you’re fighting, and then reaches out days later acting like everything is fine.

You feel hurt, disrespected and frustrated. You want to express how you’re feeling, but you’re scared to make matters worse. You’re scared the argument will damage your friendship.

      2. Move beyond the fear

This is the part most people struggle with. This is why it’s important to complete the first step. Do you sincerely believe what you’re saying? Do you believe that you are being mistreated and disrespected?

Using the example above, the best course of action is to set a boundary. Be specific about the problem, what is not okay and what you want. You can say something along the lines of, “walking away during a fight makes me feel like you don’t respect me. The next time you’re upset or angry, please talk to me.” Even if your friend needs time and space to cool down, they should still let you know.

It may feel uncomfortable at first, but remember this is for you. Even though it’s hard, you needed to set limits around the type of behavior you will and won’t accept. Plus, think about how empowered you will feel by saying what’s on your mind.

3. Keep practicing this behavior until it becomes a habit

Habits are created through repetition. So, if setting boundaries is a habit you want to cultivate, you must continue practicing until the behavior becomes ingrained in your brain and part of who you are.

Are you ready to start asking for what you want? By learning how to set boundaries and stick to them, you will transform the relationship you have with yourself and the world around you.

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