As women, boundaries as something that we often struggle with. How many scenarios have you replayed in your head, wishing you’d said something differently? In a society that raised women to be agreeable and amendable, where speaking up for yourself can label you “difficult”, it can be hard being a woman who isn’t afraid to say her piece. But the first thing we need to realize is that drawing such personal boundaries and making sure they’re not crossed makes us strong not strident.
Women, by nature, are caregivers. Growing up, a woman is taught to be compassionate and merciful, to nurture and take care of others. We’re told we need to be everything for everybody or we’re nothing at all. This total impossibility traps us in our own prisons made up of beliefs such as, “I can’t disappoint my family,” or “If I speak up, I’ll be labeled as ‘problematic”, or “I have to be perfect all the time.” Such limiting beliefs are a result of not setting healthy boundaries as they teach people how to treat you and worse, it makes you believe the things others have told you about yourself. By not setting such boundaries, you give your power away. Wouldn’t it be peaceful to not be accommodating, compromising and stretching all the time?
To help you take that power back, we’ve put together 5 effective steps to start setting boundaries as a woman for yourself right now.
1. Decide your tolerance
If you spend your life trying to avoid never dealing with infuriating people, you’ll never accomplish anything. It is an inevitable part of life. But that’s not to say that you need to have a high tolerance for such setbacks. Most people don’t realize they struggle with boundaries until they start scraping below the surface. As you go through your day at work or even at home, pay attention when something bothers or irritates you or when you feel someone has disregarded you. Chances are you’ve missed an opportunity to establish and honor a boundary.
2. Realize your rights
This goes back to being a child and being told to always act like a “little lady”, to always behave and have a set of rules in place for yourself. Unfortunately, this unconscious image of perfection puts us at odds with what our soul wants – to be free, to be happy, to make mistakes, to grow stronger, to express fully. Once we become more aware, once we start realizing our right to set healthy boundaries, we draw a certain line that safeguards our soul from the pressures of society. We realize that we can choose something different for ourselves and that we have the right to do so.
3. Be assertive
Most of the time we fall into a gray space when it comes to boundary setting because we’re afraid of what the other person will think. Our seeking for approval often gets in our own way. If you practice assertiveness when it comes to setting boundaries, you can come off as firm but kind to others. Aggressive language can feel harsh and punishing whereas assertive language is clear and nonnegotiable, without being blaming or threatening. Start statements with “I” as they show confidence and respects expression.
4. Learn to say no
Even though it can be extremely daunting, “No” is a complete sentence. We might hesitate to say no without offering reasoning behind it but that’s not necessary. Assertiveness isn’t always about boundary setting but also a sign of personal tolerance for being uncomfortable. Saying no doesn’t make you wrong or difficult. It shouldn’t make you feel guilty or fearful of how you’re making the other person feel. You hold the power to say no without an explanation and without providing emotional labor to the recipient. Practice it.
5. Put your boundaries into action
This may probably be the toughest step of them all. You’ve identified your tolerance, you’ve learned your rights, you’ve incorporated assertive statements in your vocabulary but now, you have to act on it. Start small. Practice incorporating one boundary a week and see how it goes, how it makes you feel afterward. If you stumble, or if it doesn’t go as planned, don’t beat yourself up. Begin again. When you have one locked in place, enforce another one, then another, and another.
There is something very freeing about standing up for yourself, the power that courses through your body for protecting yourself feels like such an achievement. When you decide to enforce boundaries of your own, you teach people how to treat you by treating yourself right. These new expectations and limits don’t make you difficult, they make you powerful as a woman.