Setting and keeping boundaries can be a tricky thing, especially for women. Our culture has taught us that it’s not polite to say “no” or to push back on something that doesn’t feel right to us. But boundaries are super important for your overall well-being. I like the way Brené Brown puts it, “‘Boundary’ is simply what’s ok and what’s not ok.”
Why Healthy Boundaries Are Important
When you set boundaries, you are taking care of yourself. You set limits to what is acceptable and unacceptable treatment and you are recognizing what you need and asking for it.
Healthy boundaries help you manage stress, take care of your physical well-being, and create healthy relationships. For example, when you say “no” to working late because you’re overtired, you’re prioritizing your need for rest. Or when you leave the room if someone yells at you for no apparent reason. Another example is when you turn down another invitation to volunteer for something because you’re already overbooked. All of these demonstrate self-respect and self-worth by doing what’s best for yourself.
Poor boundaries often lead to resentment, burnout, or anger. Without boundaries, you’ll absorb other people’s feelings and take responsibility for their problems, you’ll overwork, allow others to take advantage of your kindness, and eventually this will negatively impact your physical and mental health.
What are Your Priorities?
Getting clear on your priorities can be a good first step when you’re looking at setting boundaries. You’ll know what to say “yes” to and what to decline. When you look at your life, your responsibilities, and your goals, what are the most important things to you?
Imagine that your life is a pie (just go along with me here). Each slice of the pie represents an area of your life: family and friends, health and self care, career, financial, fun and hobbies, spiritual, and emotional. Are you satisfied with each of these areas? Which takes top priority? Where do you want to focus most of your time and energy?
You’ll find that you can only have two to three “slices” of pie take top priority at one time. That’s because we all have only so much time and resources to give. And as life goes on, your priorities may change—which is why reviewing your priorities from time to time makes a lot of sense. If something feels out of balance, take a step back and decide what is the most important to you in your life right now. Write it down.
How Do You Set YOUR Boundaries?
Your personal and professional boundaries will look different from mine, and mine are different from someone else’s because boundaries are specific to an individual. But I’ve found three keys to setting and keeping healthy boundaries that have worked well for me that just may help you:
It might take some time and consideration to set boundaries based on what’s most important to you, but your overall well-being is worth the effort in the long run.