How can I set my personal boundaries and make sure people respect them?

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So many of us struggle with personal boundaries. We feel that to be worthy of other people’s love or appreciation, we must always be helpful, even if that means putting aside our own needs and feelings.

And so we end up saying yes when we want to say no.
Or we can accept abuse in our relationships because we feel its okay
Or we can let other people’s urgent problems become our own
Or we constantly feel the need to apologize
And a zillion other ways of putting ourselves on the back burner.

Of course we diminish our own levels of wellbeing, but it also leads to emotional turmoil. Meet anyone who is doing too much for others, or neglecting their own self in the process, and you’ll also meet their counterpart who’s angry and resentful. You know the feeling – when we feel resentful that we’re the one who’s always giving. Or angry and hurt when we don’t get back the love and appreciation we wanted in the first place.

The good news is that we can use this very feeling of anger and resentment to set our boundaries – because anger is a sign that these boundaries have been violated. Ask yourself “What do I need to protect within me?” Is it my space, my time, my respect, my dignity…?”

Then be clear on how you’ll communicate this to the other person in a way that’s direct and reasonable.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Don’t blame or accuse – it’ll simply make the other person defensive. Instead, start with saying something good – it will likely soften them and open the doors of communication.

Be specific – don’t assume they know what – even if you think they should know what you want! People are generally not mind readers – and even when they do try, they normally do a bad job of it…

Express emotions – and no, I don’t mean being aggressive or weepy! Let the other person know how their behavior makes you feel. This comes with a word of caution – if it’s a colleague you’re talking with, you’ll want to tone this down somewhat!

Listen! Encourage the other person to say what they feel about the situation. This is an important aspect of building boundaries because after all, boundaries shouldn’t be cast in stone. None of us wants to live in 1-woman castles – even if it sometimes feels like that’s just what we need! We need others in our lives, and working towards win-win communication is the best way to ensure that our boundaries are honored.

What strategies have you used to set your own personal boundaries? What’s helped you, and what hasn’t? Please share!

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