How to Set and Maintain Boundaries
Table of Contents
I spent the better part of 2020 and onwards learning about my own boundaries. A lot of people ask me about boundaries, so here we go!
Boundary setting is something most of us were not taught as children.
This means it’s a new skill set to acquire in adulthood. However, all is not lost. We can learn new things at any time 😊
What is a boundary?
A boundary is a limit on our energetic capacity. We have a finite amount of time & energy each day and boundaries help us to decide where is best to spend it.
Why do we set boundaries?
We set boundaries to feel safe, secure, and happy. We have 24 hours each day, and only so much energy to give (to ourselves and others).
We want to show up in the world as our best selves - with love, presence, and focused attention. We also want to be aware of our needs. Setting boundaries help to align us with this intention.
Porous vs. Rigid vs. Healthy Boundaries
There are 3 different ways your boundaries might show up. The intention behind each one differs. Below is a breakdown:
Porous boundaries mean there are little to no boundaries. Rooted in a lack of self-worth and self-trust, this looks like:
- Being easily influenced by others
- Taking on other people’s problems
- Struggling to say no
- Caretaker or rescuer energy
- Fearing abandonment or rejection (when you set boundaries or when others set boundaries to you)
- Feeling stretched too thin
Rigid boundaries mean the boundary is set too strongly, usually out of fear, to protect the heart. A wall may be built to keep others out, leading to a lack of connection.
This looks like:
- Using boundaries to shield the heart
- Unwilling to collaborate
- Unwilling to self-inquire
Healthy boundaries have a sense of fluidity. They can be firm or flexible depending on the situation. When we trust in ourselves and our bodies, this looks like:
- Respecting other people’s boundaries
- Sharing appropriate amounts of personal information
- Communicating boundaries clearly and mindfully
- Using boundaries to create healthier relationships
- Having the self-knowledge to know what feels safe and healthy
What are some common categories of boundaries?
- Physical: when we were kids, we were taught to hug any adults that were introduced to us without question. Having physical boundaries means having the discernment to trust when physical contact is welcome, or when it is not. It’s okay if it is not!
- Mental: maintaining a sense of self, thoughts, values, and opinions while respecting others who have different insights from our own.
- Material: examples might include books or other items. Our boundaries dictate what we are willing to lend out and when we would like to have them returned. And under what conditions.
- Financial: how much we are willing to spend on something or loan to someone else, and when it is expected to be returned. Or, perhaps, knowing if you are okay without having that sum of money returned.
- Emotional/Energetic: this is about separating our feelings from those of others. This can help us to prevent over-giving, taking on blame, or emotional rescuing. The key is to remember, I am only responsible for my own emotions. I do not have to take care of others’ emotions. We are each responsible for our own emotional and energetic hygiene.
- Spiritual: respecting how you practice your own spirituality versus how others do. Being mindful of unsolicited advice, and trusting that where you are on your path is right, without having to impress that onto others.
- Sexual: checking in to see what you are comfortable with, whom you are comfortable with, and at what stage of the relationship you are willing to take things in this direction.
Also, remember, it is okay to change your mind! We are all fluid creatures and our boundaries may look different on different days.
How to Practice
Overall, our ability to set boundaries is rooted in how much we love and trust ourselves. If we don’t have a baseline relationship with ourselves, we’ll be more likely to self-abandon when something is being asked of us.
If we are able to trust ourselves, then we know that we are doing the best thing for us and our needs, and that others will have to understand.
First, we need to check in with ourselves.
- Check in with your body: does your body relax when you think about saying yes to something, or does it tense up? Where do you feel these sensations?
- Check in with your energy levels: Do I have the energy for with this request?
- Check in with your intuition: What does my intuition say about this experience? Am I being nudged to say yes or no?
- Check in with your emotions: Do I need to process any emotions before I make my decision? It’s okay take more time before you decide.
Then, we communicate what we have decided to the person making the request.
Common Responses to Boundary Setting
If you’ve never set a boundary before and you are starting now, know that there are two common reactions from other people.
- One is that your boundary is understood and respected. This makes the boundary setting easy. The right people will understand and respect your needs. Even if they don’t understand completely initially, their openness to learning your boundary makes a difference.
- The other is that your boundary is not understood nor respected. You may receive pushback, negotiation, questioning, or have your boundaries crossed a bunch of times. These are the people you may have to be more cautious around or more consistent with your communication.
Being consistent with your communication and your boundary enforcement is vital to maintaining them. Remember, because healthy boundaries have some degree of flexibility, check in with yourself first prior to communicating what you need.
You are allowed to let go of people who don’t respect your boundaries.
You also don't have to explain your boundaries.
If you find yourself having to keep reinforcing with certain people, that in and of itself can become quite the energy drain. This is a good time to check in to see if that relationship is worth holding onto. Often times, these are the relationships that are built around you having no needs.
You can set boundaries with your pets, too
When I first brought Rocco (my dog) home from the shelter, he was a terror between the hours of 2pm and 4pm. I called them his “witching hours”. Which means he would do anything for attention.
He would nudge my hands off my keyboard while I worked from home, and he would find things to chew up in front of me. Most commonly - the bathroom mat.
I decided enough was enough. I decided to crate train him and teach him not to nudge my hands off the keyboard. With time, he was able to graduate from the crate.
He now sleeps next to me while I work and he doesn’t nudge my hands off the keyboard (though sometimes he still wants to, lol).
And our relationship has never been better 💜 Setting a boundary helped me finish work on time and feel better about working from home.
The Bottom Line
Boundaries are a way to help us feel safe, secure, connected, and loved. When we create and communicate our boundaries, we teach our loved ones how to treat us.
We owe ourselves that much! We are worthy of healthy and secure relationships.
Setting boundaries takes practice! And perfection isn't a realistic goal.
Let me know if this post resonated with you in any way!
Y’all have a good week and take care!
"No one will listen to us unless we listen to ourselves first” - Marianne Williamson
- Aiyana, Sheleana. Becoming the One: Heal Your Past, Transform Your Relationship Patterns, and Come Home to Yourself. Chronicle Prism: 2022.
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