By: Ammie Kae Brooks, LSW
Has anyone ever told you, “Maybe you should set some boundaries?” Sounds like a good idea, right? Perhaps your mom is overreaching and asking more of you than you wish, or your partner has expectations that trigger feelings of being controlled. Well, you gotta learn to set some boundaries, sis!
Boundaries are truly our best friends. Ultimately, when things make us uncomfortable or we come across
something that we dislike, we find ourselves wanting to draw a line in the sand; the thing, whatever it is, over there and us over here. For example, you are treated unkindly at a local restaurant, you may find yourself setting a boundary with your money and no longer spending it there.
When it comes to our mental wellness, we have the ability to set similar boundaries when we are treated unkindly; more specifically, we set boundaries when we find things to be more harmful than helpful to our mental health. A few examples of this may include: choosing to only wear one piece swimsuits to prevent anxiety triggered from exposing your body, or making the decision to talk to your father on Saturday’s only so that if you become upset it doesn’t interfere with work. Boundaries can be big or small choices we make to protect our mental wellbeing and maintain emotional safety.
Setting boundaries is extremely rewarding and can help us restore control when we’ve lived through experiences that have disempowered us. While boundary setting is liberating, it often requires a difficult element we aren’t quite prepared for; this component of boundary setting is called saying goodbye.
In all of the examples from above, there is some degree of relinquishing or severance that happens in return for mental stability and peace. In the first example, we lose access to the restaurant. In the second example, we lose access to bikinis, and in the last example we lose access to our dad throughout the week. It will depend on the boundary you are setting and how much you value what you’re giving up that determines how challenging setting each boundary may be.
While this is a reality worth coming to terms with when initiating the boundary setting process, do not be deterred! You will most likely find that there is creativity in boundary setting and healing in choosing you.
Here are a few questions to consider before setting a new boundary:
What thing or things in your life need boundaries in place? Keep in mind this might be most things.
Without boundaries, how does this thing make you feel? Think about the good and not so good aspects.
How can you creatively preserve the good while guarding your mental space from the bad? Some ideas may include limiting time spent doing the thing or putting incentives in place for accomplishing it, remember boundaries can be tiny or huge!
What has to be given up or relinquished in order to honor your new boundary? Be honest about how this makes you feel and whether or not it’s worth it. If not, no worries, start over and create a new boundary.
Like all things, setting boundaries takes time, practice and intentionality. Be gentle with yourself on this journey and remember that your motivation for change is a healed, more free you.