Updated: May 7
I work with people ALL. THE. TIME. to help them set boundaries in relationships. With their mothers, significant others, children, co-parents. The list goes on.
Boundary setting comes up all the time in therapy. So I should be really good at it in real life, right?
When it comes to me actually telling people I can’t accommodate their schedule or that I can’t volunteer to arrange the 5-day food drive at my kids’ school...it makes me want to vomit. I really want people to like me. I don’t want to disappoint anyone. And I find it WAY easier to push my needs to the side and take on more tasks rather than saying ‘No, I can’t do that.’
I tell you this because I want you to know that if you have a hard time setting boundaries, you’re not alone! Even the relationship professionals have a hard time communicating their limits,
But just because it’s hard for me, doesn’t mean I don’t do it.
Like Beth from the Yellowstone gif above, I do set boundaries. Most of the time. (I’m not going to claim perfection here).
Here are my 7 best tips for what makes setting boundaries easier for me…
7 TIPS FOR SETTING A BETTER BOUNDARY
Check in with your body throughout the day. Get to know the difference between your bodily sensations and listen to what your parts are telling you! For example, a tightness in my chest and shortness of breath tells me that too many people are asking too many things of me at once. Time for me to go to the bathroom for a quick 5 and figure out what I can and cannot do. Or maybe for you, it’s a queasy feeling in your stomach that reminds you that even though your boss’s boss is demanding something from you, you might not have the bandwidth to follow through. Your body’s message can help you decide how to say ‘no’ or figure out what else you can cut out to make sure you have a sense of balance.
Use relaxation techniques so your thinking brain can be more online. This can be done through deep breaths, a quick walk, or one of my favorite psychosensory modalities, Havening. Here is a link to a guided Havening meditation to get you started. (BTW, I’m certified in Havening and teach this skill in the Moving On Group. It’s been my personal pandemic stress lifesaver).
Give yourself a pep talk. When I'm feeling weary of saying no or expressing a need, I remind myself of what Brene Brown teaches. It’s better to choose a moment of discomfort in saying ‘no’ than it is to be resentful of the other person and yourself for saying ‘yes’ for the weeks and months to come. What are the words you need to hear to help you choose yourself? Tell yourself those words!
Speak and think kindly about yourself. Putting yourself down when you’re communicating the need for another person to respect you sends a double message.
Communicate succinctly and kindly. You don’t need to give a story about why you’re not okay with your 3-year-old playing unattended near a pool. It’s just not okay with you. That is enough.
Learn to be okay with tension. Any time we express our needs or say ‘no’ to a request, we run the risk of disappointing another human. This discomfort can send us in a tailspin of second-guessing ourselves and can feel REALLY strong. But it’s also short. And you can handle short. Keep your eye on the prize.
Give yourself a gold star! After the boundary is set, the ‘no’ has been said, or the limits have been communicated, give yourself an effing HUGE high five! Because this shit’s not easy!