Relationships, Self-Management

The Surprising Way We Learn to Set Boundaries

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Setting boundaries is often misunderstood as simply saying no to people. While this aspect is part of it, it only scratches the surface of what boundary-setting truly entails.

The surprising reality is that the journey of establishing (healthy) boundaries is not about others; it begins with oneself.

setting boundaries

Boundaries With Yourself

We learn to effectively set boundaries, not by focusing on other people’s behavior, but by setting boundaries with ourselves.

Before attempting to awkwardly communicate our “so-called” boundaries to others, we must first identify and respect our own limits and needs.

This means that self-awareness and self-respect are at the forefront of our attempts to establish personal boundaries.

It’s about recognizing what is acceptable and unacceptable for ourselves regardless of external pressures or expectations, and then behave as such.

It’s not about other people’s actions; it’s about ours.

You don’t make people respect your boundaries; you make yourself respect your own.

Related post: 11 Essential Self-Management Skills You Need Right Now for Personal Transformation

Personal Responsibility

Setting boundaries means, above all, taking responsibility for where we are in our life. It’s about focusing on what YOU can do to change YOUR actions, thoughts, and behaviors, regardless of what other people chose to do.

The reason we focus so much on other people’s behavior, especially when it comes to the idea of boundaries, is because it’s a quick escape form guilt.

It is easier to blame others for our problems, than it is to blame ourselves.

Because if we didn’t put the responsibility of our problems in the hands of others, we would be forced to cultivate self-awareness AND to do the work; we’d be forced to understand our personal priorities, values, and goals; we would have to acknowledge that our actions and behaviors are compromising our well-being; and we’d be forced to change them.

And let’s face it, the human brain hates change.

how to set boundaries

So, which sounds easier? Blaming others, or changing yourself?

The Only Real Way We Change Other People’s Behavior

The truth is, we don’t set boundaries by telling other people what to do. (We rarely change other people’s behavior by telling them what to do, btw).

We set boundaries by showing other people how we want to be treated, and by behaving as such regardless of their own behavior.

This means that you have to teach yourself to respect your own boundaries, first. Only once you do that, can you behave appropriately with others, which in turn, lets them know your standards and how you want to be treated.

It’s not (just) about your words; it’s about your actions.

Saying No To “Stuff”

Contrary to common belief, setting boundaries extends beyond interpersonal relationships.

What I mean by this is that, most of the time, your inability to set boundaries has nothing to do with other people; it’s about your inability to say no to “stuff”.

By “stuff” I mean the myriad distractions that demand your attention throughout the day: that new meditation app that seems so much more effective that the 5 other meditation apps you have on your phone; that new workout or diet technique you saw on social media; that new Instagram account to follow; this new shirt that would make your work wardrobe so much better; etc.

Related post: All That Stuff You Own Is Ruining Your Life; Here’s Why

Learning to stay no is not about rejecting people; more often than not it’s about discerning between what is essential and what is merely fleeting.

boundary-setting tips

Most of the time, setting boundaries is about saying no to your social media feed, the never-ending scrolling, or the incessant buzz and allure of new ventures or pursuits.

Do you do that?

Can you do that?

Are you committed to preserving your attention and prioritizing your time and energy?

Think about it: if you are incapable of saying no to things that are unimportant and respect your decision, how can you say ‘no’ to someone you love?

The Distinction Between “Likes/Wants” and “Loves/Needs”

Learning to set boundaries is inherently linked to aligning your actions you’re your personal/core values and aspirations.

Do you even know what they are? And why?

Boundaries are what help us navigate the tension between our likes and wants (i.e., immediate gratification) and our long-term fulfilment (i.e., our loves and needs). They are specific to us, NOT general rules about how other people should or should not behave.

In this sense, it is impossible to identify the right boundaries for us if we don’t know what truly matters to us (in other words, our priorities), and what our goals are.

This process involves introspection, and requires us to apply a certain level of critical thinking, detached from our passions and urges… and it is not an easy thing to do.

That’s why, when it comes to boundaries, we like to focus on other people’s behavior instead of our own).

Setting boundaries becomes a deliberate act of self-preservation, a means of staying true to our true self, amidst pressures form, yes, the external world, but also, and mostly, our EGO.

Dealing with Guilt

Only once we do that, can we finally reframe boundary-setting as an act of self-respect and empowerment, rather than as a rejection of others.

Setting boundaries can finally emerge as necessary for self-care and personal growth.

It’s not about pushing other people away; it’s about honoring ourselves.

In conclusion, setting boundaries is a multifaceted process that begins with the self. It’s about recognizing and honoring our core values and desires, and aligning our actions with those values.

It’s not about pushing other people away or being rude; it’s about recognizing and saying no to distractions, and staying true to ourselves and our goals.

clarity journal

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About Steph

I am a personal growth/self-management enthusiast. I was able to completely transform my life using everything I share here. I hope this blog helps you transform yours as well.
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