Setting Boundaries—With Yourself

We’ve all probably been in the awkward ordeal where a friend asks for a favor and we know we can’t accept it and yet, we hesitate. We might be arguing with ourselves, debating over being a good friend or trying to be nice, but let me tell you—you might just end up shooting yourself in the foot.

Yes, of course, it’s important to be kind and help your friends, but when you’re scrambling to finish that last-minute assignment you kept pushing because you were doing a favor to someone else, it all kind of feels like a slap to the face. It’s okay, though, right? I mean, it was for a friend after all and it’s not like you’ll limit yourself like that again. But then (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) another favor is asked. And another and another and another until you get to the point where saying “yes” is suddenly the only available answer and you’ve got coffee coursing through your veins because late-night cramming has become a ritual.

Don’t get me wrong—friendships are pretty damn great...when they’re balanced. The flaw though is that some of us might get a little too determined in making sure people continually like us that we start jumping hurdles for them on the daily. That’s not a good relationship. It is good to help, but we shouldn’t be getting to the point that our life force is literally being drained dry by the favors we do for other people. Saying “no” is okay. We can’t be a “yes” person all the time. Boundaries are a necessary component of  a healthy life.

There are three things to keep in mind when creating these boundaries for yourself:

  1. 1. Identify What Matters to You

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    relationships that drain us. In order to build our boundaries and stick to them, we have to first know what our wants and needs are. Self-help author and blogger, Mark Manson, said in his article, “The Guide to Strong Relationship Boundaries” if you’re not clear on your emotions and actions, “you never develop a solid identity for yourself.” So take a couple of moments in your life to really think back on life, on your passions, your happy memories, all the things that make you feel good inside. Write them down and start basing your boundaries off that list. Keep in mind that this list will continually change as life progresses.

  2. 2. Prioritize Your Needs

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    When we’re saying “yes” to the things we know will put too much on our plate, we’re not taking care of our physical and mental state. We might not be honest with ourselves and decide some other thing is much more important out of guilt or fear of not doing them, but we can’t be making decisions from such negative feelings. Bestselling author and clinical psychologist Christina Hibbert told Psych Central, “I have learned that saying ‘no’ to someone else is really saying ‘yes’ to something that’s more important to me.” Remember your needs matter too because it’s you who has to face the consequences if you don’t. As Cheryl Richardson, author of several self-care books has said, “If you spend your life pleasing others, you spend your life.”

  3. 3. Know the Difference in the Healthy and the Unhealthy

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    Boundaries don’t mean never help a friend with a favor again. It just means knowing the difference between doing something out of fear and doing something out of love. We shouldn’t be doing things for people because we’re too scared of saying otherwise. That’s not good reasoning and at that point, it’s the anxiety that’s talking. Helping out should be because you want to and even though it’s not necessarily fun or all that great for you, it’s okay because the person matters to you. Of course, there’s a balance between giving too much and giving a helping hand. If a friend has had financial problems and you've been helping them every so often but your generosity has gone a little overboard for you, tell them. Instead of giving them money, recommend to them financial help programs or other such resources. Communication really is important, both for your friends and for yourself.

Boundaries might not be easy to input in our lives but they really are important in keeping healthy minds, bodies, and relationships. Remember, a “no” isn’t always a bad idea.