Building Healthy Boundaries: Strategies for Saying "No" and Prioritizing Your Needs
Establishing boundaries can be much easier said than done. Sometimes, we have taken the time to set and communicate limits to those around us, but then the line in the sand that we drew so crystal clear becomes a bit fuzzier, day by day.
For example, it can seem like a simple thing to take on the role of providing snacks for your children’s soccer team after each game… but if your to-do list is already overflowing, that small task may become more stressful than necessary.
Boundaries Are Self-Care
The truth of the matter is that we only get 24 hours in a day. How do you want to spend your time? Few would choose to do anything that doesn’t bring them joy, and yet that’s exactly what we end up doing by not turning down those dreaded, unnecessary tasks!
It is imperative for us to acknowledge that our time is as precious as anyone else’s, and we need to utilize our right to prioritize our own needs.
The boss that likes to give you duties well beyond your pay grade? The coach who now sees you are willing to bring refreshments each week? These “simple” tasks tend to snowball until they start to become a real, time-consuming problem. If you are taking on these types of tasks because you feel like you have to - instead of doing them because you want to - it is time to develop tactics for establishing and maintaining better boundaries.
Taking Steps to Set Boundaries
If you are in a place where you have let people take advantage of you, even after boundaries have been established, it is time to take a breath and move forward in getting a bit of your life and happiness back.
Recognize Your Role
People will generally treat you how you allow them to. It is important to teach them what is and is not acceptable in your presence. If you laid the groundwork for boundaries before, but then decided to not be consistent, you’re sending mixed messages. Recognize that they did not hold up their end of the agreement but also that you allowed it to happen.
Stay calm, have another formal discussion clearly communicating what is causing you conflict and the boundaries you are setting, and then maintain your goals.
Just as children can push back on boundaries set by guardians, even adults can be frustrated when boundaries are established that they don’t like. When someone has been relying on you and your time, it can be hard for them to accept your new ability to say “no.”
When you stick to your boundaries, it could cause negative consequences for the other party. If this happens, stand your ground. Stick to your boundaries and make it clear that negative behavior will not make you stray from your boundary. Think back to that little league coach who got used to you being the snack fairy. He may need a snack-less week or two to understand that you mean business.
If there is a person that is being manipulative or pushing boundaries ceaselessly, it might be time to make some hard decisions. Limit your contact with them, if possible. In more troublesome or extreme scenarios, consider eliminating that person from your life altogether.
Without feeling guilty, you can move forward because you have communicated your shifting priorities and your intention to keep those boundaries crystal clear.
If you need some help stepping outside of your comfort zone and establishing clear boundaries, reach out to me. I’m always happy to help others find ways to build happy and successful lives!