Whether you’re facing yourself or others, saying ‘no’ can be difficult. But some boundaries are necessary for your health and happiness.
When you find it’s time to draw a line, it’s important that you express that to the people in your life so they can help you and support you while respecting those boundaries.
By learning to identify your limits and express them to others, you can set boundaries that benefit both your home and professional life.
What Does It Mean to Set Boundaries?
The word “boundary” indicates a separation, a line that’s drawn either physically or metaphorically.
However, while the word “separation” often has a negative connotation, many boundaries are healthy and actually necessary.
Setting boundaries entails having a conversation with the people in your life—whether you have a working, personal, or other kind of relationship with them—to determine what kinds of actions and behaviors are acceptable to you.
Knowing how to set the (right) boundaries means having the self-awareness to know when enough is enough, especially in your work and personal relationships.
Why Is Setting Boundaries Important?
Knowing how to set clear boundaries is the key to healthy relationships that are built on mutual respect.
By setting your own boundaries, you’re deciding what’s acceptable as far as the behavior of others. You can determine whether others are able to put you down, make you feel bad, or take advantage of you, and you can decide what to do with the relationship if the boundaries aren’t respected.
Healthy boundaries contribute to better self-esteem, more emotional energy for the things that really matter to you, and greater independence to think and act for yourself.
What Are Good Boundaries?
For healthy relationships at home and at work, you should consider what makes you comfortable or uncomfortable regarding your:
- Physical space
- Time and energy
Now, there is such a thing as too many boundaries. You don’t want to be close-minded or exclude possibilities that might change your life (for the better).
When drawing your boundaries, consider things that really zap your energy without benefitting you in any way, that make you uncomfortable or anxious, or that make you worry for your health or well-being.
If your boss frequently calls you or expects responses to emails outside of work hours, for example, that could start to take a serious toll on your family and home life (not to mention it’s probably draining your energy and making you a little anxious).
That would be a good point to draw a boundary. You could either ask your boss to respect designated work hours, or simply not respond to emails after 6 p.m.
But if just showing up to work on Mondays makes you sad, that’s (unfortunately) not really a boundary you can set. You still need to respect your obligations and commitments!
How to Set Boundaries at Home and at Work
Follow these tips for setting the right boundaries in your personal and professional life.
1. Know your boundaries.
You can’t set or enforce boundaries if you don’t know your boundaries. Having the self-awareness to know when too much is too much is a critical life skill, but it’s one that must often be learned.
2. Learn how to say “no.”
Setting boundaries with others doesn’t have to entail a heart-to-heart, lengthy discussion. You can practice enforcing your boundaries simply by learning how to say no.
Most of us would like to be able to do more, but if you stretch yourself so thin, that leaves you with very little energy for yourself and the things you care about, so don’t feel like you have to say “yes” to everything that comes up—and that goes for social events and work requests alike.
Besides, when you say “no” to one thing, you’re really saying “yes” to another. More often than not, learning to set priorities turns out to be a more valuable skill than multitasking.
3. Be direct.
Whether you’re setting boundaries for how someone touches you, talks to you, or what they ask/demand of you, it’s always important to be direct.
Beating around the bush might feel safer or more comfortable in the moment, but if you’re not clear about what you want or don’t want, it’s going to be hard for the other person to respect your boundaries, since they might not even understand what those boundaries are.
You can be direct and polite at the same time. For example, if your boss keeps calling you and emailing you and expects answers on weekends or after work hours, you might say something like:
“I know things are busy at work, but we’re all putting in our full effort while we’re here all week. I would appreciate it if we could respect work hours so we can spend quality time with our families on weekends.”
4. Ask for help.
Asking for help might be part of setting boundaries for you. If you feel you’re carrying too much of the weight at work, or that you’re doing all of the emotional work in your relationship, speak up and ask for support.
You owe it to yourself to seek the help you need. Don’t try to take on everything alone! Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of courage and strength.
5. Practice self-care.
One boundary that you should try to set concerns how much you give to others, and how much you give to yourself.
You can practice self-care by taking a day off, meditating, drawing a hot bath, journaling, and many other activities that are completely free.
Setting boundaries can sometimes involve difficult conversations, but you owe it to yourself to draw the line when you feel uncomfortable or that something’s just not working.
Setting healthy boundaries with others (and for yourself) can help you to be more productive, happy, and healthy, so don’t be afraid to speak up.
What healthy boundaries have you drawn in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments below!