Better Boundaries: How to Take Control of Your Life

We’ve all met them—those folks who are unpleasant, annoying, rude, and manipulative in our lives. Even though we attempt to surround ourselves with positive and friendly people, there will always be others who would disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse us if we let them.

We may not be able to avoid them for a variety of reasons, but we can choose how we connect with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how do you reclaim control of your life and stop being bullied?

The best approach to protecting ourselves against the bad impacts of this type of conduct is to learn to set clear, firm boundaries with the people in our lives, both at work and at home.

What are boundaries?

Boundaries can take many forms. They can range from being rigid and strict to appearing almost nonexistent.

If you have more rigid boundaries, you might:

  • keep others at a distance
  • seem detached, even with intimate partners
  • have few close relationships
  • avoid close relationships

If you have more loose or open boundaries, you might:

  • get too involved with others’ problems
  • find it difficult to say “no” to others’ requests
  • overshare personal information with others
  • seek to please others for fear of rejection

A person with healthy boundaries understands that making their expectations clear helps in two ways: it establishes what behavior you will accept from other people, and it establishes what behavior other people can expect from you. If you have healthy boundaries, you might:

  • share personal information appropriately (not too much or not too little)
  • understand your personal needs and wants and know how to communicate them
  • value your own opinions
  • accept when others tell you “no”

Many of us have a mix of boundaries depending on the situation. For example, you might have strict boundaries at work and more loose ones at home or with family and friends.

There might even be different boundaries based on a person’s culture. For example, some cultures find that sharing personal information is not appropriate at any time, while in other cultures, sharing might be encouraged at all times.

Types of boundaries

Building healthy boundaries — whether you’re at work, at home, or hanging out with friends — hinges on understanding the types of boundaries.

There are five different types:

  • Physical. This refers to your personal space, your privacy, and your body. You might be someone who is comfortable with public displays of affection (hugs, kisses, and hand-holding), or you might be someone who prefers not to be touched in public.
  • Sexual. These are your expectations concerning intimacy. Sexual comments and touches might be uncomfortable for you.
  • Intellectual. These boundaries concern your thoughts and beliefs. Intellectual boundaries are not respected when someone dismisses another person’s ideas and opinions.
  • Emotional. This refers to a person’s feelings. You might not feel comfortable sharing your feelings about everything with a friend or partner. Instead, you prefer to share gradually over time.
  • Financial. This one, as you guessed, is all about money. If you like to save money — not spend it on trendy fashions — you might not want to loan money to a friend who does.

When you get ready to establish your boundaries, be sure to take each one into account.

1. What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

They aren’t ultimatums or threats. Boundaries can either inform or instruct. They aren’t meant to be used as a kind of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines

Which you have established—and which no one else can cross. They are instructions for how you should enable people to treat you and the types of actions you can expect from them.
Personal limits that are healthy can help you avoid physical or mental harm.

You may also need to set clear limits at work to protect yourself and your time. Allowing others to take advantage of your generosity and goodwill is not a good idea. 

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration

That you will not be a doormat for anyone and that you are willing to stand up for yourself.

They are a “no trespassing” sign that clearly states when a boundary has been broken and that there will be consequences.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people.

They may alter how others interact with you, but they are more concerned with imposing your wants than with changing others’ general behavior and attitudes.

2. How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

You must first understand your own requirements before you can establish limits with others.

You have a right to be respected. You have the right to defend yourself against insulting or unacceptable actions. Setting boundaries is a technique of recognizing and honoring your own needs.

To set proper boundaries, you must first define what constitutes healthy behavior and healthy relationships.

  • What areas do you need to improve your boundaries in?
  • When do you think you’ve been disrespected?
  • When has the actions of others made you feel violated, annoyed, or angry?
  • In what scenarios do you believe you are being treated unfairly or exploited?
  • When do you feel the need to be alone?
  • How much room do you require?

Before you can expect others to respect your needs and boundaries, you must first respect your own. This gives you the ability to take charge of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Make your expectations known to others in a clear and direct manner. Having a  communication that is clear  If you want others to respect your boundaries, you must first respect yourself.

Explain what you find unpleasant or objectionable in a straightforward and courteous manner. 
Many people are just unaware that they are acting in an unacceptable manner.

They may have never been taught good etiquette or respect for others. 

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

  • “You may not…yell at me or raise your voice…”
  • “I demand…to be treated with dignity…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you take things from my desk without my permission…”
  • “I’m not going to…do your work…cover for you any longer…”
  • “It’s not okay if…you make fun of or insult me…”
  • “It makes me feel uneasy when…you use unpleasant language.”
  • “I won’t be able to…lend you money any longer…”

If you want others to respect your limits so you can take charge of your life, you must be able to articulate these without sounding accusing.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

When limits are crossed, decide what the proper repercussions will be. When communicating those boundaries to others, be explicit about the repercussions upfront if it’s appropriate.

Carry it out. If you don’t enforce your boundaries, others will disregard them.

Standing firm and enforcing punishments are not easy for us. We want to be pleasant. We all want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to give up our dignity in order to make friends or succeed.

We could be inclined to overlook little infractions in order to avoid conflict, but as the old adage goes, “if you give somebody an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s far easier to deal with disrespectful or inappropriate behavior now rather than waiting until it’s entirely out of hand.

It’s also worth remembering that positive reinforcement has a greater impact than negative repercussions. Recognize when people change their behavior toward you. Make them aware that you are aware of and appreciative of their efforts.

Final Thoughts

Setting a barrier for the sake of respect is always a good idea. Don’t put up a fight for yourself or your needs. Boundaries are frequently required to preserve your time, space, and feelings.

And if you want to take control of your life, you’ll need these.

Begin with the simplest boundaries. Setting limits is a skill that must be honed over time. If necessary, enlist the help of others. When someone crosses the line, let them know right away.

Don’t put it off. Communicate clearly and pleasantly. Make sure you understand the penalties and stick to them.

The more you practice defining your own boundaries, the more you’ll be able to recognize and respect the boundaries of others.

It’s important to remember that you have the right to set boundaries. You have a right to be respected. You have no influence over how others treat you, but you do have control over how you allow others to treat you.

Setting limits is not always simple, but with practice, it will get easier. You can discover that setting limits become automatic after a while, and you don’t have to think about it.

They’ll just become an organic extension of your self-esteem.

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