8 Steps For Setting Boundaries

You know that one person who doesn’t take shit from anyone and they have no guilt for standing up for themselves? Or maybe, it’s a person who loves you unconditionally, but tells you when they’ve had enough. Sometimes that looks like saying no to plans because they are too emotionally drained. Sometimes it looks like saying no when they don’t want to have sex (shocking!). Or it could be giving up relationships that hurt and no longer help, like a family member or friend since childhood, no matter how hard that goodbye is.

Welcome to the world of boundaries! Setting boundaries can be really hard to do, but once you set them, you are able to grow into the person you are always meant to be. Stop holding yourself back and take control of your life and your relationships.

Step 1: Determine your values 

Think of what you value most in this world. Tough, isn’t it? How about this. Think of a time when something made you really angry or upset. What about when something made you so happy you screamed with excitement?  Why did you have this strong emotion? There are tons of value lists online to help you with this process. Your values will be your ground rules for your life. I mean, as Hamilton says, “If you stand for nothing Burr, what’ll you fall for?”

Step 2: Identify your feelings 

Think of a time when you have felt a person pushed you to your limit. What was that limit? Why did you feel that way? Align your feelings to your values and start to notice when you feel strong emotions. Understand the feeling’s relation to your values.

Step 3: Communicate your values

When someone crosses your boundaries, it might be because they don’t know your values. You don’t have to get them tattooed on your forehead so everyone knows them, but in a personal or intimate relationship, I hope those closest to you know what you stand for. If they don’t, tell them now! Communicate your values and have a conversation about theirs, too. See if you’re fundamentally compatible and learn how to better understand their perspective.

Step 4: Communicate breaches

Communicating also goes with mid-boundary breaking. When you realize someone is crossing that line, tell them! If it’s someone you value and love, they probably aren’t being a total jerk. They most likely need to be reminded. That doesn’t mean you get to let them off the hook. Don’t ignore it or assume they will know better. Communicate! Let them know your boundary and how their action affected you. If they really love you unconditionally, they will respect your boundaries. Speaking up is hard, but communicating your boundaries makes you feel empowered. Go communicate, you badass, you.

Step 5: Hold them accountable 

Look, boundaries are there to keep us safe. We are a goddamn castle. Our moat and fortress walls better stand up against the dragons. That’s why we have them. You don’t see a dragon break their wing from flying into your wall and think “Oh no, I’ll let them come in so I can make them better.” GIRL! You are a princess who was being attacked by a freaking dragon! Respect your damn self! There’s going to come a time when your boundaries will be tested. Are you going to give them another chance? Or are you going to lean into your principles and tell them when enough is enough? I know you have a heart. I know you never want to disappoint people. But you have to stop disappointing yourself. You have to respect yourself. Because if you don’t, no one else will either. 

Step 6: Decide if they are worth keeping in your life 

Fool me once, shame on you. Food me twice, shame on me. You are in control of your relationships. It’s a two-way street. You don’t have to be in a relationship if you don’t want to be in one. You don’t have to be treated like shit and constantly disrespected. I mean, dude, if you let them back into your life after they repeatedly disregarded your boundaries, you played yourself. You are the only person that can let down your boundary. Not them. Choose wisely.

Step 7: Hold no grudges

If you do keep that person in your life, keep in mind that YOU made the decision to keep them in your life. You don’t get to use what they did against them. Forgiveness is not a sword to wield. Seriously, the worst person in the world is the one that holds grudges. Yes, they may have hurt you. They recognized what they did, apologized sincerely, and tried their best to make amends. I thought we communicated about this before? But you’re going to bring it up 8 months later? Girlfriend, you need to go back to step number 0: go to therapy. 

Step 8: Rinse and repeat

As we grow and change as individuals, we need to adjust what we stand for. The goal of boundaries is to respect and protect yourself, and how we do that changes over time, too. You’re going to have many boundaries over the years, and many dragons trying to break the fortress. Forgive, forget, and be gracious with yourself. Dragons are inevitable. That’s why we make castles with fortresses. It’s not the entire story of our life. We set boundaries so we can live meaningful lives without the bullshit. You’re gonna make lots of boundaries and maybe even some enemies, but that’s part of living a meaningful life. As long as you aren’t your own worst enemy, you’re doing it right.

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