This post was most recently updated on August 21st, 2023
[A collaboration post – all thoughts are my own.]
Setting healthy boundaries is part of self-care and self-respect. You can set all sorts of boundaries: with yourself and with people around you—what you will and won’t do, what you will and won’t accept from others, and what you won’t tolerate in a community. Setting up these boundaries helps you have relationships that are based on mutual trust and clear communication.
However, setting boundaries is an ongoing process, and it’s not a quick fix for dealing with boundary violations. Simply put, we can’t make people respect our boundaries. I experienced this with my family. No matter how many times you tell them, just because they’re more experienced or older than you, they won’t fully respect your boundaries. Even though we can’t make people respect our boundaries, we can control how we respond.
Set your boundary before you hit your limit
As a content writer, I write 600–1,000 words per day (except on weekends). As a translator, I translate at least 3,000 words per day, depending on the topic. Sometimes I have to sleep late, and it takes time to rebuild after letting yourself burn out. You need to set your boundaries at work at a point that protects you before you reach exhaustion.
Acknowledge your limits
Are you a night owl or a morning person? I work from home; I sleep around 1/2 am, then wake up at 7 or 8 am. I start working at 9 a.m. with my translation documents until lunch. Then continue with my blogging tasks around 2 p.m., take a break, and continue again after 5 p.m.
Whatever your limits are, just make note of them. Don’t compare your limits to someone else’s, and don’t underestimate yourself for having different limits. Spend the evening unwinding or watching your favorite movies.
Along the way, you will hit bumps, hurt someone’s feelings, or worse, hurt yourself. Setting healthy boundaries isn’t always going to go 100% smoothly. And that’s okay. Nobody’s perfect.
Respect others’ boundaries
When you respect the boundaries that people around you have put in place, they will see it as an example of how you’d like your boundaries to be respected, too. You can explain that you’ve respected their boundaries, so you expect the same from them as well.
Here are the types of boundaries:
Physical boundaries include your comfort with touch, your needs for personal space, and your physical needs. That’s all right to let people know that you don’t want to be touched or you need to rest.
These boundary violations feel like receiving unwanted touch, having someone come into your personal space that makes you uncomfortable, or being denied your physical needs (you need to wait to eat or drink). The most severe violation would be physical abuse.
Here is how you respond to physical boundaries:
- “Don’t go into my room without knocking/asking first.”
- “I am allergic to ….., so we can’t have that.”
- “I am really tired. I don’t feel like going out now.”
- “No. I don’t want you to touch me like that.”
Time is money. Your time is valuable and setting time boundaries is amazingly important at home, work, and socially. Learn to say no more often and set aside enough time for the many areas of your life. It is much easier to limit the amount of time you are giving to other people.
Time boundaries violation: demanding time from people, showing up late or canceling on people, asking professionals for their time at an unreasonable rate, or keeping people in the conversation for longer than we told them.
Here is how to respond to time boundaries:
- “I have family time on Saturday, so I can’t watch with you.”
- “I can only stay for two hours.”
- “I would love to come, but I have something important to do this evening. Is there another time?”
- “I am happy to help you with that. My hourly rate is…”
Emotional boundaries are all about respecting your feelings. When someone respects your emotional boundaries, means they know when to share or not to share and recognize how much emotional energy you are capable of taking in.
Emotional boundary violations include: telling other people how you feel, assuming you know how other people feel, sharing inappropriate information with others, reading personal information (like someone’s journal or diary), asking questions that are not appropriate, and criticizing feelings.
Here is how to respond to emotional boundaries:
- “I really don’t want to talk about it right now.”
- “I want to share my feelings with you, and when I get criticized, it makes me uncomfortable. I need you to be able to respond respectfully to me.”
More examples of how to set healthy boundaries:
- “I know we disagree and I can respect that, but I won’t let you belittle me like that.”
- “I can’t lend you any more money. I would be happy to help you in another way.”
- “I don’t like that. Let’s try something different.”
- “Tell me what you don’t like.”
- “Do you have time to chat/meet up today?”
Setting healthy boundaries in your life can include preventing family members from disturbing you when working from home or how much alone time you need in a relationship. The boundaries can be an important tool to create an environment for each person to be themselves and have their needs met.
The more you set boundaries, the more you recognize them. You can start to give your life the structure that will help you achieve your goals.
Have you had to set boundaries in your life? What tips have worked for you? I’d love to hear more in the comments below.