We all hear about the importance of boundaries, but many of us (myself included for a time) don’t really know how to set them and keep them. Many still don’t understand what healthy boundaries look like. “Boundaries are the limits of acceptable behavior” from those around us–professionally, personally, and even with those we don’t know. But how do we set boundaries? So many of us worry about what others may think about us or that we will upset others we often don’t speak up for ourselves, which in turn can cause resentment and anger.
Matt Kahn has a video I would highly recommend. It’s long so make sure to allow yourself time with it, but he talks about setting boundaries and why they are important. He essentially states that boundaries are a way for us to make and take time for ourselves to recharge. If we are feeling nervous, angry, or fatigued at the thought of being with a person or doing an activity someone has asked of us that is our nervous system saying we need a break. Matt Kahn explains you can say something along the lines of, “I really want to be present for you, but right now my nervous system cannot take that on. I’m going to have to say no.” I thought this was brilliant because I personally relate to my nervous system feeling overworked when I haven’t been setting boundaries and giving too much of myself to others. I will get to a place of fatigue and want to check out. In the past I would just put a smile on my face and carry on doing what others asked of me, but how did this really help them and myself? It didn’t help them because they didn’t get 100% of my energy and it didn’t help me because I would become exhausted and/or resentful. This isn’t good either because people catch onto that energy and they either back away or expect more and more of you because you always say yes.
Boundaries need to always come from a place of love because they are meant to support our own well-being and that of others. The two types of boundaries–internal and external–are equally important. The internal boundaries are personal agreements with ourselves to modify a relationship. External boundaries are those we verbalize to another person. In setting boundaries this is a place of authenticity and love. Boundaries also allow us to be truly present, either with ourselves or loved ones.
It can seem foreign to set and keep boundaries, but they are essential for our mental health. We need to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of and help others. If we are resentful or a doormat, how could we be at the top of our game? It takes practice, but once you start you will realize you feel much better, and you may even inspire others to take care of themselves and make boundaries of their own. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”- Mahatma Gandhi