Setting boundaries are important and a form of self-care. Maybe you’re wondering how or thinking, “What even are boundaries?”
Imagine using a chalk to draw a circle around yourself. Imagine this circle protecting you from all the avoidable hurt you might encounter, things that are in your control. That is what a boundary is. Personal boundaries are guidelines and limits a person creates to identify reasonable and permissible ways people can behave towards them and also their response to these people if and when they cross these limits.
Boundaries are relatively easy to create because they are built from things that are okay to you and things that are not okay or make you uncomfortable. But it might get tricky at the enforcing part. There are people who would rather keep quiet and let others do what they want than speak up when they have a problem. Even when I started setting boundaries, informing people about them or telling them off when they broke it was an issue. But if you don’t speak up when a boundary has been crossed, you give the impression that it’s okay and it will be crossed over and over again till you break.
Boundaries are important in every relationship from professional relationships to romantic relationships and even our relationship with ourselves. Paying attention to them is a form of self-care. Let me give an example of boundaries at work. Anan just got a new job after months of unsuccessful applications so she’s eager to throw her all into it and prove to her boss that she’s right for the role. So when her boss sends a message by 12:00am as she’s scrolling through Twitter but meant to be asleep, she quickly replies. She thinks, it’s just quickly editing a short document, no hassle. So she does it and sends it back immediately and thinks at least her boss can see she is quick and reliable.
But months later, Anan is complaining about this new job she was so eager to have in the first place because it has taken over her entire life. She works from home during weekends, public holidays and even after hours on work days because her boss just keeps on sending her work at odd hours and she can’t say no. Obviously, the problem started the first time Anan responded to the 12:00am text giving her boss the impression that it’s okay to send her work at home.
Imagine if she replied saying she couldn’t work at night when she’s meant to be resting but she’d get the work done first thing in the morning when she gets to work? That’s setting boundaries and letting them know what is okay and what isn’t.
Of course it’s not that easy. We can all say we’ll allow this and not allow that but how about enforcing it? It takes discipline and reminding yourself to choose yourself in the situation. The thing is that it can be easy to let things slip and say just this once, especially to avoid conflict and confrontation. But that one time turns to every other time and you’re stuck.
So start speaking up. Don’t let those things people do that bother you slide because that is how the cycle of unhealthy relationships start. You harbour so much hate and when you finally explode, it’s not pretty. Learn to say no to things you don’t want and learn to tell people “that is not okay” when they do things that are not okay. Let go of the guilt because you are looking out for yourself and taking care of you.
Letting people know there are things they can and cannot do is a form of love. You are keeping hatred and malice from brewing in a relationship and instead respecting each other’s needs. And you’re also protecting yourself because boundaries help you to be your true authentic self and not a people pleaser. You do things that are best for you and avoid things that are draining and make you uncomfortable. If someone cannot respect your boundaries, it’s obvious they don’t care about you and shouldn’t be in your circle.
Do you see how setting boundaries are important and a form of self-care now?