Personal Boundaries 101

You cannot have a healthy relationship without boundaries.  Since you read Part 1 and know how to decide what your boundaries are, it's time to implement them. Expressing your boundaries can be tricky.  There's usually a push-back from people who are used to you allowing them to do X, and the push-back isn't usually comfortable.  The resistance to your new boundaries usually happens not because the people in your life are trying to be provocative or unsupportive, but simply because they're genuinely confused by the change in your behavior.  Perhaps the most difficult type of resistance people who are trying to set new boundaries encounter is within themselves.

You resist setting boundaries because some iteration of this sentiment is on the forefront of your mind:

People are going to think I'm selfish, or cold, or both.

It's hard to prioritize your needs, but as we went over in part one, protecting your time, energy, health and emotional safety is part of your job as an adult.

Implementing boundaries is all about finding the right language.  The following mini-scripts and advice comes from one of the masters of self-care and boundary setting, Cheryl Richardson.  Here's Richardson's take on how to find the language to set personal boundaries:

Start setting simple but firm boundaries with a graceful or neutral tone. This will feel uncomfortable at first, but as you take care of yourself, the personal power you gain will make it easier.

Be sure to have support in place before and after each conversation. If you can't find support from a friend or family member, you may be successful finding a friend online.

Vent any strong emotions with your partner before having your boundary conversation.

Use simple, direct language.

To set a boundary with an angry person: "You may not yell at me. If you continue, I'll have to leave the room."

To set a boundary with personal phone calls at work: "I've decided to take all personal calls in the evening in order to get my work done. I will need to call you later."

To say no to extra commitments: "Although this organization is important to me, I need to decline your request for volunteer help in order to honor my family's needs."

To set a boundary with someone who is critical: "It's not okay with me that you comment on my weight. I'd like to ask you to stop."

To buy yourself time when making tough decisions: "I'll have to sleep on it, I have a policy of not making decisions right away."

To back out of a commitment: "I know I agreed to head up our fundraising efforts, but after reviewing my schedule, I now realize that I won't be able to give it my best attention. I'd like to help find a replacement by the end of next week."

To set a boundary with a person who borrows money: "I won't be lending you money anymore. I care about you and you need to take responsibility for yourself."

When setting boundaries, there is no need to defend, debate, or over-explain your feelings. Be firm, gracious and direct. When faced with resistance, repeat your statement or request.

Back up your boundary with action. Stay strong. If you give in, you invite people to ignore your needs.