If you really want to become a better person, you need to set these 5 boundaries in life

I think that when you don’t have healthy boundaries, you’re basically just surviving. 

You’re always going from one people-pleasing thing to the next. You’re also giving others license to depend a little (or a lot) too heavily on you—maybe even take advantage of your compliant nature. 

But we don’t just want to survive in life—we want to thrive in life. 

Oprah Winfrey once said: “In order to thrive and be successful, you have to be able to set boundaries.” This is something that came to Winfrey the hard way after learning to get past her own people-pleasing behaviors and tendencies. 

“You also have to be able to set boundaries, otherwise the rest of the world is telling you who you are and what you should be doing,” she once said on her long-running talk show. 

She added: “You can still be a nice person and set boundaries.”

If you’re looking to live a more authentic life, then setting—and sticking to—these five boundaries can help you lead a more authentic and better life. 

1) Don’t feel compelled to respond right away 

In our immediate gratification kind of hustle culture, we’re used to responding to requests right away. 

This could be texts, emails, voicemails, even invitations in the mail. 

Start by creating a boundary around yourself. Unless it needs an immediate response, step back and allow yourself to think about it over the course of a day or two. 

If the idea of this makes you nervous, rattle off what I call the pre-response. 

Tell the person you’ll get back to them about it. This helps you to get rid of that nagging feeling that you’re being rude by not replying while still allowing you to be non-committal. 

Then you can take your time to tune into how you really feel about it instead of being compelled to say what you think you ought to say or what they want you to say. 

It also gives you a chance to think ahead if they try to coerce you or don’t take no for an answer. You’ll also be less likely to give in because the time has given you the gift of making a firm decision. 

2) Make a habit of saying “no”

In our society, the word “no” gets a bad wrap, but the truth is it can be the most positively powerful word in the world.

Saying no to a Christmas party invitation because you want to take some time for yourself shows your putting your mental health first. 

Saying no to a narcissistic parent who wants to monopolize your time and do favors for them, for example, creates a boundary that demands that you not be treated like a doormat. 

Saying no to the boyfriend who is pressuring you to spend every spare minute with him shows you’re standing your ground in that you also have a life that is separate from him. 

When we make a habit of checking in with ourselves (as mentioned above) and the making the decision to say no, we are leading a life that is more authentically aligned with our own needs and values. 

Saying no definitely isn’t easy—especially at work. 

Even celebs have a hard time with it. Take Friends alum Jennifer Anniston, for instance. 

In an August 2018 interview with InStyle, Anniston said:

“I’m trying to make better choices. I went through a period of saying yes to projects that I shouldn’t have, but I felt like, ‘How dare I say no?’ Now I’m trying to get better at saying no and to be part of projects that actually really matter.”

3) Be honest about your experiences 

Setting boundaries requires honesty and courage—with both yourself and the person you want to establish the boundary with

Be honest with yourself about why you want to set the boundary. Then communicate it firmly but gently to the other person. 

Be honest about what you would like to do in the situation and reflect so that you can find the fairest and healthiest way to respond, says Lana Goes from Tiny Buddha

“Then comes the hardest part: finding the courage to act even if it may displease, anger, or irritate the other person.”

You might have a downpour of emotions about setting a boundary: guilt, fear, anxiety. You might worry that you’re making a mistake or you may even feel unsafe in speaking up, says Goes.

“But remember that ignoring the issue is not a solution because you will just end up feeling resentful if you continually avoid saying what you really want to say.”

4) Talk about an issue you have with the actual person you have it with—and not with a third-party 

In the words of New York Times best-selling author and founder of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization, Dr. Ivan Misner, “Talk TO each other and not ABOUT each other.”

Oftentimes when we’re faced with a challenge or a disagreement in a relationship, Misner says our instinct is to seek solace in talking to others about the issue rather than addressing it with the person who is directly involved. 

Misner says that over the years, he’s come to realize one invaluable lesson that stands out above the rest: “Clear, open, honest, and direct communication with people is key to solving most problems that may arise in…relationships.”

He says the tendency to talk to other people about our situations rather than the person we have a conflict with becomes less about resolution and more about venting frustrations or assigning blame.

“It’s a pattern that many of us fall into, and it’s a pattern that can be highly detrimental.”

So set a boundary around venting to people not directly involved. Channel that energy into tactfully talking to the person you need the resolution with. 

5) Make sure your expectations are clear and well-explained, rather than assume that people should automatically know what they are 

Sometimes we don’t realize how the solution to our situation is actually in our hands. 

Let’s say you’re in business with someone and they have a habit of showing up late to work because, well, they’re also the boss, and they can, so why not?

After all, shouldn’t that be one of the benefits of being self-employed, that you have the freedom and flexibility to do things how you want?

Except, you’re finding that business calls tend to come in fast and furious in the morning and not having your business partner there to run things by is hurting the efficacy of the business. It’s also making clients impatient because they need an efficient solution. 

You’ve communicated this indirectly to them by saying things like, “It was another hectic morning with calls today and a lot of people were frustrated that I couldn’t give them advice or direction right away because I had to wait until you came in.”

While it’s pretty obvious what you’re trying to say, your partner may think that this is something that happens once in a while and that it’s just part of running a business to have complaining clients from time to time.

Employ the tactic of being direct. Say: “I know you like to take your time coming in in the mornings, but I need you to be here by 9:00 am because client calls come in a lot in the mornings and I want to be able to run things by you. I know you need flexibility to work well and so do I, but maybe we can work something out where we take turns leaving early in the afternoons when it’s less crazy around here. That way I won’t feel so frazzled in the mornings and it also doesn’t affect our professional relationship.”

We don’t need to make a mystery out of setting boundaries—direct communication is almost always the key. 

Think of boundaries as the “stop signs” of your life—they keep you safe…and sane

Boundaries can be seen as being “stop signs” in your life, says Michelle C. Brooten-Brooks from Very Well Health

“Where you put your stop signs and what you consider ‘crossing the line’ will vary based on your beliefs, values, cultural customs, and family traditions,” she says. 

Brooten-Brooks believes the following steps can help when you’re setting boundaries. 

Set a goal. Ask yourself what the goal is in needing to set this particular boundary?

Start small. No doubt about it: setting boundaries is uncomfortable and even a burden. “The key is to start small and focus on one [boundary] at a time,” says Brooten-Brooks. 

Be clear about it. Focus on what you want as clearly as possible so that you can communicate it as clearly as possible. 

Practice. Preparing yourself—especially if you feel nervous about setting the boundary—can go a long way. “Write out what you want to say beforehand or practice stating a boundary in front of a mirror.”

Last but not least: Keep it simple. “Less is more with boundary setting,” says Broken-Brooks. “Try not to overload someone with too many details at first. Just pick the main thing that is bothering you and focus on that.”

Once you’ve gone through these steps, I would add to be proud of yourself: you’re taking a big step in not just establishing and communicating a boundary, but you’re also taking a tangible step toward a better life

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