A Clear and Concrete Guide to Setting Boundaries
Empowering Women

A Clear and Concrete Guide to Setting Boundaries

  • 12/23/2019
Settings Boundaries
Not all self-care can be seen

A Clear and Concrete Four-Step Guide to Setting Boundaries

We women are very lucky to live in today’s era of self-care. FINALLY, it’s cool to be kind to yourself. *virtual fist bump online wellness community*

Sexy self-care products are being plastered across our screens every day. We’re talking jade rollers, hormone-balancing supplements, face masks, weighted blankets, collagen, dry brushes, bath bombs… you guys, we could literally go on for pages. And we are HERE FOR IT.

But what the internet forgets to tell us about is the less sexy side of self-care: the hard work that goes into it. Because self-care, ultimately, is about strengthening our focus and protecting ourselves from the negative effects of stress and burnout. Unfortunately, purchasing a jade roller on Amazon isn’t going to instantly make that happen.

Think of it like your muscles: you can buy all the gym equipment and protein powder in the world, but you aren’t going to feel strong and your muscles aren’t going to magically appear under your skin until you PUT THE WORK IN: consciously and consistently.

This time of year, I find that one self-care “exercise”, so-to-speak, is extra important. In fact, we would go so far to say CRUCIAL, and that is setting boundaries. 

Study after study show that women self-validate through their relationships with others. We probably don’t have to tell you that this translates to us having a difficult time saying that dreaded word… “no”.

Luckily, boundaries are a great tool that we can use to protect ourselves from burnout and develop authentic relationships with others without sacrificing our own comfort. And to help with that, we’ve created a four-step guide to simplify, create, and enforce concrete boundaries in your own life.

Step 1: Identify what needs to be protected by your boundaries.

We always start with three questions: What do I need? What are my rights and values? And finally, what is causing me emotional stress?

For example, I know what it’s like to spend years fighting an eating disorder, so when I ask myself those questions I come up with things like: I have the right to eat whatever I want. I need people to stop commenting on my weight. People talking about diets, cleanses, and obsessive workout programs cause me stress.

Step 2: Create a clear verbal response to items that violate your needs, rights, and values, and then WRITE IT DOWN.

Have a go-to sentence that you can say that clearly identifies your boundaries to others. If you’re totally lost here, try the following template:

I respect that you _________, but it makes me feel _________ and what I need is _________.

Look, we’re not going to lie, it takes practice to get comfortable asserting yourself, and you have to get used to the potential five-second awkward moment. But the outcome is worth it in the long-run, and you may be surprised at how many people feel the same way you do but don’t feel comfortable enough to communicate it.

Following the example from step one, my sentence may be something like: Auntie Susan, I respect that you choose to follow a paleo diet, but it makes me feel anxious and frustrated when you talk about your diets and what I need is space from diet culture.

Step 3: Assert your boundaries.

This seems obvious, but it is sometimes the hardest step. Once you write down your sentences, you need to actually say them. Don’t let people bully you into giving more excuses, or peer pressure you into saying yes to things that you don’t want to do. You absolutely don’t need excuses for your boundaries, and you can say no. The only people who benefit from you NOT having boundaries are the people who are exploiting you for having none.

Following the example above, if I’ve communicated my boundaries to my family, but a family member still asks me to join them for an event that sounds triggering—like a crossfit workout or low-calorie cooking class—I can say no, and that’s okay. I don’t need to provide more excuses (I’m busy that day! I feel sick!) and I don’t need to feel guilty for passing it up.

Step 4: Acknowledge and honor the boundaries of others.

Okay so this step doesn’t directly relate to YOUR boundaries, per se, but it is still incredibly important. Remember that everyone has boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others will make them feel more secure in your relationship and encourage them to do the same for you.

Boundaries aren’t for keeping people out of our lives. We create them so that we can foster strong, secure, and authentic relationships. By following the three steps above, you’re practicing a form of self-care that allows you to protect yourself and grow closer to others. So grab that jade roller, pour yourself a coconut milk matcha latte, and jot down your oh-so-important boundaries.

Margaret (Grit) Phillips is an engineer and freelance writer who is passionate about women’s wellness. Find her on Instagram at @gritbyname or visit her blog at gritbyname.com.