Staying Firm in Establishing Boundaries

Posted December 16, 2021

A stern young woman holds her hand out to stop someone and stays firm in her boundaries

We’re taught an array of practical life skills from childhood, such as cooking, cleaning, budgeting, and driving. Rarely, though, are kids taught the skills of emotional regulation that help you build healthy relationships and protect your mental health. As you get older, the importance of these skills only becomes more apparent, but building them isn’t an easy task. How do you get better at assertion and self-confidence? Establishing healthy boundaries is one of the most important abilities a person can have. Learn how to develop this essential life skill and improve your mental wellbeing in the process in Apple Valley, MN.

How to Establish Boundaries

In psychology, a boundary is defined as an imaginary line marking a person’s limits. Establishing boundaries is a complex process. Though it happens in the context of communication with another person, it starts with you. Before you can set a boundary, you need to engage in honest introspection to determine its significance. Ask yourself questions such as the following:

  • How do I define this boundary for myself and others?
  • Why is it important for me to maintain this boundary?
  • How will I enforce this boundary in interactions with others?

Asking yourself questions such as these is the first step towards healthy and sustainable boundaries. There are many different areas of your life that you can and should set boundaries in. Some examples include:

  • Personal space
  • Emotions and ideas
  • Personal belongings
  • Sexual situations
  • Emotional and physical energy
  • Time-sensitive commitments
  • Cultural and religious issues

Each of these areas is a part of your life that you may handle differently than others do — and these differences can lead to interactions that feel disrespectful or violating if you don’t set clear boundaries with people.

Establishing boundaries offers a range of benefits to both you and those on the other side. One of the best benefits is the increase in self-esteem that often follows. Creating a boundary is a way of investing in yourself and preventing situations that may cause stress or harm. Boundaries also benefit relationships by establishing a line of communication between yourself and your partner. It also encourages those around you to be clear in their boundaries, thus creating an environment of mutual respect and open communication.

How to Set Boundaries

Once you’ve identified and established a boundary that’s important to you, maintaining it can be another separate challenge. Simply establishing your boundaries often isn’t enough. You will likely need to remind those around you about them, too. This can be difficult if you’ve never had a conversation about boundaries before, but it’s an important step in protecting your wellbeing. Maintaining boundaries requires that you be assertive, understanding, and communicative with the people who surround you.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to practice self-advocacy. Self-advocacy entails taking responsibility for your communication with others, voicing your concerns, and listening to others’ feedback. Most importantly, though, it is the explicit expression of your needs. If you are engaged in a project with somebody, for example, and they tell you that it will require a longer time commitment than you initially agreed to, this is an opportunity to practice self-advocacy. Keep the following principles in mind while doing so:

  • Be assertive without being aggressive
  • Be clear and direct when you state your needs
  • Do not feel pressured to justify your boundaries
  • Present with confidence and calmness

Maintaining your boundaries may take practice, but it’s a worthwhile exercise. Remember, too, that people cannot read your mind — so if you do not make your boundaries known, the people around you may unknowingly violate them. This can lead to resentment and the breakdown of a relationship, so It’s vital to make your needs known before your boundaries become a source of conflict.

When to Push Back When People Disregard My Boundaries

Unfortunately, people will resist your boundaries, even if you convey them with respect and clarity. People do this for many reasons, but the result is the same regardless of the motive — you will find yourself at a crossroads. You will either fold to avoid confrontation, or you will need to find a way to reassert your boundaries. Neither of these options is easy, but it’s a situation you are likely to find yourself in if you are committed to setting boundaries with people.

Determining when to push back can be a complicated issue, though. If a friend asks you to stay five minutes longer than you’d planned to help finish a task, is this a violation of boundaries that’s worth acknowledging? The answer depends on the firmness of your boundaries. Sometimes it’s okay to maintain soft boundaries that are flexible based on the situation you’re in. Other times, you need to be firm for the sake of your safety and wellbeing. Determining the rigidity of your boundaries is essential to effectively enforcing them.

When you have rigid boundaries, and you encounter a person who continuously violates them, even after you’ve made your needs known, you can employ any of the following strategies:

  • Minimize the amount of time spent around that person
  • Avoid conversations and interactions with them
  • Hold them accountable by seeking support from others
  • Do not escalate the situation with emotional responses

No matter which approach you use, you should be clear with the person and communicate the consequences that will follow if they continue violating your boundaries. Still, some people are unable or unwilling to respect boundaries, no matter how clearly you state them. When dealing with people like this, you may have to find a way to remove them from your life.

Mental Health Support That Works

Establishing clear boundaries takes work, but you don’t have to do that work alone. Partnering with a mental health professional can help you develop the tools and confidence you need to protect your wellbeing more effectively. Mental Health Systems has been serving clients throughout Apple Valley, MN, since its founding in 2002. We offer dialectical behavioral therapy to help you overcome life’s challenges. Call us at (952) 835-2002 or schedule an appointment online.

Image Source: Nicoleta Ionescu / Shutterstock