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How to Establish Healthy Boundaries

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Most of us generally like to help others.  This might include offering assistance or being accommodating to the needs of others.  But, there are occasions when what we think is helping someone, may actually be hurting them.  Sometimes the nicest act we can do for another person is to set and maintain healthy boundaries.  The purpose of this article is to show how establishing healthy boundaries can actually enhance relationships with others and offer suggestions on how to effectively communicate boundaries with others. Although this article is a great first step, you might find it helpful to work with a professional to learn more about your unique style of interacting with others and how boundaries can work for you specifically.

What are Boundaries and Why are They Important?

Simply put, boundaries are healthy limits that you set between yourself and others.  Boundaries can be physical, emotional, or intellectual.  Setting boundaries will help you separate your own feelings from others’ and help protect your self-esteem. Standing your ground and taking care of yourself and your needs will help you feel better in the end and have more energy for the things that you want to do.  By setting appropriate boundaries with others, you also allow others the opportunity to take care of themselves.

Suggestions for Setting and Maintaining Healthy Boundaries:
Setting boundaries can be a difficult and daunting task.  Maintaining these boundaries can prove to be equally or even more difficult.  Start small, be assertive and direct, seek support, and give yourself permission to make self-care a priority for you.

Below are some helpful suggestions for accomplishing your boundary goals, thus allowing you the freedom of taking care of your own needs:

  1. When setting a boundary, try doing so in just a few words, avoiding apologizing and justifying.  Set the boundary clearly, firmly and calmly, while remaining respectful
  2. Remember that you are only responsible for communicating your boundary respectfully.  You are not responsible for the other person’s reaction to the boundary you are setting
  3. Initially, you may feel uncomfortable when setting your boundary.  With practice and consistency you will find that it gets easier over time. When the going gets tough, remind yourself that you have a right to self-care
  4. Listen to yourself, when you feel resentment, anger, or unease, this is probably your instincts telling you that you need to set a boundary
  5. Learning to set healthy boundaries is a process that takes time.  Be sure to acknowledge your own process and time frame while rewarding yourself for the gains that you are making
  6. Surround yourself with people who support your efforts in establishing healthy boundaries and who can offer encouragement at times when you feel uneasy
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