How To Set Healthy Boundaries

How To Set Healthy Boundaries | Jennifer Diaz | Photo by Q Avenue Photo

When talking about taking care of ourselves, most of us know that eating a well balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise are both very important aspects. And while I firmly believe in the power of both, they often overshadow other components of our health that are just as, if not more, important. In fact, some of the most common issues I’ve seen are directly related to our emotional health.

Your environment and the people you surround yourself with play major roles in your overall well-being! So much so, that both help you create your life experience. Emotions and attitudes are contagious; therefore, filtering your exposure to certain types is essential for your personal health and wellness! Setting boundaries protects you from being directly affected by the unhealthy, sometimes even damaging, behaviors of other people.

In order to set healthy boundaries, you first need to connect with your own personal values and emotions. If you've created a vision statement, it's time to revisit it! Who do you want to be? What is most important to you? Then, decide what negative behaviors and attitudes you don't want in your life. This is not about being self-righteous. This is about self-respect. One way to recognize some of these behaviors is to make an assessment about the way something makes you feel. Do you get frustrated when you get work calls at home? Are you uncomforatble when people gossip around you? Do you start feeling negatively towards your own body when someone is talking badly about theirs?  If so, that may need to be a boundary. Once you define what yours are, (you guessed it) write it out, preferably next to your vision statement! Below are a few more examples:

  • Others may not yell at me.
  • There will be no negative self-talk in my presence.
  • No one may call me about work before 7am.
  • No one may gossip in my presence.

Once you've defined the behaviors you don’t want in your life, you have to communicate them calmly and confidently. Communication is one of the most important aspects of relationships! Ultimately, we teach the people in our lives how to treat us. No one can read your mind (thank goodness…) so unless you effectively communicate to them how you’d like to be treated, they will not know how you expect them to treat you. Being intentional about your boundaries can help ensure healthy, respectful relationships. Don’t be surprised if it takes you several requests before people take you seriously. Since this is a pivotal conversation, here are 5 steps to setting boundaries (with examples):

1. Inform. 

Like I mentioned before, people aren't going to automatically know how you expect them to treat you. The first step in setting a boundary is making them aware of what they are doing in a non-judgemental way. After all, some negative behaviors are habitual (we all have them...). 

Example: Do you realize you're talking really negatively about yourself? It makes me feel negatively towards myself when you do that.

2. Make a Request, Not a Demand. 

You're not in control of the other person, so rather than telling them how to act (counterproductive), ask them if they would be willing to refrain from certain undesired behaviors while they're around you. Depending on the situation, you may have to repeat this step a few times before they understand. 

Example: "Would you be willing to not talk negatively about yourself in front of me?"

3. Give a Warning. 

As I said in the first step, some negative behaviors are habitual. Just because you've made your request, it doesn't mean they'll be able to change that quickly. Give them a little grace, remind them of your boundary, and let them know what you will have to do if they refuse to respect it. 

Example: "If you continue talking negatively about yourself, I will have to leave."

4. Follow Through.

This is probably one of the most important and difficult steps. However, in order for people to respect your boundaries and take you seriously, you must follow through with your stated warning!

Example: "Because you're continuing to talk negatively about yourself, I am leaving."

5. Let Go of The Outcome.

You are only responsible for the way in which you handle situations. At this point, you’ve done your job at calmly stating your boundaries and requesting that people respect them. Whatever the other person decides to do at this point is totally out of your control. Although it may feel personal, their behavior is not about you!

Setting boundaries may not be an easy process, but it is absolutely necessary to ensure your overall health and wellbeing! What boundaries have you set to improve your life?