Do you find yourself putting your needs before others or struggling to say no to people? I would suggest creating boundaries with them.

Boundaries are when you put up relational limits to protect your well-being. You put in place boundaries with platonic, romantic, and familial relationships. There are different categories of boundaries that you can implement like emotional, personal space, social media, time, etc. You put in place a boundary when you don’t feel comfortable hugging a person you’ve just met, communicating with another person to not text you after a certain time or day, and not feeling comfortable sharing your social media password with your significant other. As a person who doesn’t enjoy physical touch, it can be awkward when you are in an environment (church, Biola, family gatherings) that uses hugs as a way to greet people. At times, I have given hugs when I didn’t feel comfortable because I want to adapt to the other people around me and be “nice” to them. I know the person is trying to express their love, and I don’t want to stop them from showing their love to me. However, it is important to let them know what you like and don’t to help establish a healthy relationship.

What truly holds people back from setting those boundaries with their family, friends, significant others, co-workers, etc? The ultimate fear is of loss of connection with that person. Sometimes, it can be a new friend and you feel the pressure to adapt to their communication style and/or love language even when you are not comfortable, or a long-time friend that you don’t want to lose. I have noticed, that the relationships where I had no boundaries in place have led to resentment.

Another fear is having a conversation about setting boundaries. It isn’t easy and it will be a little awkward to communicate what is okay and what is not okay in the relationship. There can be a lot of anxiety around having a conversation about setting boundaries. It can be because it is hard for you to clearly communicate your need and have to say “no” to someone. There can be pressure to ultimately please others' needs vs your needs which can cause another level of anxiety. If you experience this anxiety, you can try to rehearse the conversation and write down your boundaries beforehand.

This quote from Brené Brown has helped me understand the importance of boundaries and getting over the anxiety & fear I experience when setting them: “Boundaries are a prerequisite for compassion and empathy. We can’t connect with someone unless we’re clear about where it end and they begin. If there’s no autonomy between people, there’s no compassion or empathy, just enmeshment.”

By setting and respecting boundaries, you help facilitate keeping the relationship healthy and showing compassion to each other.

Here are some tips that I have about setting and respecting boundaries:

  1. Be respectful! If you are initiating boundary setting, offer space for the other person to share their boundaries too.

  2. Share at the beginning of the relationship what is okay and what is not okay.

  3. You will have friends who will pick up on your boundaries and others with whom you have to be more explicit about what you need. This does not necessarily correlate with a good relationship, it just needs more guidance.
    1. Ex: My roommate and I typically don’t talk to each other when we wake up because we are both groggy and grumpy. In contrast, I have to make it clear to another roommate to not have entire conversations within the first 10-15 minutes of waking up.

  4. Don’t be a boundary bully!
    1. A boundary bully can be someone who repeatedly pushes or violates the boundaries of other people. They don’t respect your boundaries and can make you feel guilty about setting them.

    2. The reason boundary bullies can be the way they are is that they have experienced hurt from previous relationships or they can just be learning what boundaries are.

  5. Showing grace when they inevitably mess up and not holding it against them.
    1. We are not perfect and people are going to mess up. You should still reiterate the boundaries with them to keep them accountable. It will help protect the relationship you have with them and deeper the relationship

  6. Setting offensive boundaries instead of defensive boundaries with your relationships.
    1. You shouldn’t try to be “looking” for ways for people to mess up and hold that against them. You need to state the boundaries to them and not wait for them to cross them.