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3 Steps to Setting Healthy Boundaries

As we continue our recognition of Mental Health Awareness month, we must consider how good mental health is supported by setting healthy boundaries. When others violate the boundaries we’ve established or when we’ve failed to set boundaries, it impacts how we feel and affects our mental health.

Over the years, I’ve become better at setting boundaries, however I sometimes fall back into old patterns when I wasn’t my biggest ally.

My favorite definition of what it means to set a boundary comes from Brené Brown.

“Setting Boundaries is Making Clear What’s Okay and What’s Not Okay and Why.”

Step 1 of Setting a Healthy Boundary is knowing What’s Okay and What’s Not Okay.

Thinking of your important relationships, make a list of what’s okay and not okay. These could be personal relationships with a spouse or partner, friend, child or parent. Also consider your professional relationships with your work colleagues or community work. Be sure to include the relationship you have yourself because boundary setting isn’t only with others, it’s also with ourselves.

Many times, it’s easy to start with what’s NOT okay. Most of us have been on the receiving end of when we feel a boundary has been violated – what wasn’t okay in that situation? When have you violated your own boundary?

I must remind myself that I need downtime, that there needs to be an official “quitting time” each day. Working as a salaried, exempt from overtime employee for most of my life and as an entrepreneur the work and non-work hours blur.

One of the boundaries I have violated and have let others violate has impacted the time I should be resting or relaxing each day. How good are you at keeping that boundary? What’s not okay is when I don’t keep that commitment to myself and when others take over my “free time schedule”.

Other “Not Okay” behaviors for me are passive aggressiveness, insincerity, and gossip. What’s on your “Not Okay” list?

Step 2 of Setting a Healthy Boundary is Knowing Why

Clarity around Why what you decided is Okay and Not Okay will give you strength when it comes to setting and maintaining a boundary.

For many of us, setting a boundary sounds a lot like being selfish. This goes back to our previous posts about our beliefs and mindset. Our why is based on what we believe. If we don’t believe having boundaries is important or a priority, then our thoughts, actions and outcome will reflect that belief. And if we do believe having boundaries is healthy, our thoughts, actions and results will reflect that belief.

If you were raised to be a nice, helpful, compliant “good girl” that puts others first and everything you’ve been praised for reinforces those same beliefs it becomes hard to say no and set boundaries because doing so goes against your long-held beliefs.

When we don’t have healthy boundaries, we will feel knocked off our foundation as the winds of what others demand takes priority over what’s best for us. Their priorities become ours and we can lose ourselves.

You deserve to be a priority, surrounded by those that support you and a break to rest and rejuvenate. You deserve to be treated fairly, respectfully and valued for your many talents. This is Why Setting Healthy Boundaries is essential.

Step 3 of Setting a Health Boundary is Knowing How You Will Maintain the Boundary.

Knowing how you maintain a boundary is the last essential piece required in having healthy boundaries. We can know what’s okay and not okay and why, but if we’re not willing to do the work to maintain the boundary, there is no boundary.

A big part of maintenance is getting clear on what you want and what’s your best “Yes”. When you think of the important relationships in your life – what do you want? When you think of how you use your resources of energy, time and money – what do you want?

Making decisions regarding your personal “Best Yes” allows you to maintain the desired boundary when others ask you to give of your resources.

Because I lean toward “Yes” before thinking things through, I sometimes let others violate the boundaries I have regarding my resources. I can only maintain the boundary by knowing what’s most important to me. Clarity around what I want helps me know immediately if I should say “Yes“or if I should pump the brakes to contemplate the impact of saying “Yes” and consider if the request aligns with what I want for both the short and long term.

Knowing what you want and how to communicate it to others is necessary when you must address a violation of a boundary.

Another important element in maintaining a boundary is clarity around your personal tipping or stepping away point. Sometimes a conversation won’t work, and more severe measures might need to be taken for your health. What does that look like? If behavior doesn’t change, when will you separate yourself from the person?

Will you give a warning and communicate what and why? Knowing the type of warning you might give or when you might need to walk away and separate yourself ahead of time is crucial. Identify a few “What Ifs” and have a clear strategy. This is especially important if you know you might struggle with maintaining an important boundary for your health or wellbeing.

I want to know how you’re doing with setting healthy boundaries. Share some actions you’ve taken or what you have found works for you when you need to have a boundary conversation. You can post your comments below by becoming a site member of JennQuest.

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