“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!”
When the great Aretha Franklin wrote this song, she knew what she was talking about.
If you’ve ever felt burned out at work, or you feel you have the short end of the stick in a relationship – whether with a family member, a friend, or a romantic partner – you may be in need of boundaries and tips to stand up for yourself.
In this article, we’ll be discussing why boundaries are so important, how they can impact your quality of life, and finally 10 simple but effective strategies for setting boundaries and standing up for yourself.
What are boundaries and why do we need them?
Boundaries can be thought of as lines that remind us and tell others what’s okay and what’s not okay to do when it comes to how people act toward you.
It can apply to the physical (e.g., “Don’t touch me”) or it could be related to time and space (e.g., “I can’t spend time with you at X o’clock”, “I can’t be there at X address”)
It’s actually self-care. It’s when you set rules on how you want to be treated: boundaries remind us what it is we need on a regular basis so that we feel safe and respected.
Setting boundaries is one of the most productive self-care methods that help you prevent burnout, stress, anxiety, and even mental, financial, and emotional burdens.
Setting boundaries and standing up for yourself is easier said than done – why?
It could be because you are the type of person who fears saying no to others or you might always want to be there for your loved ones and friends.
While these are all not necessarily bad things, they might not be serving you in the best way.
10 strategies for setting boundaries and standing up for yourself
1) Identify your non-negotiables
To succeed in setting boundaries and standing up for yourself, you have to figure out what you value in life.
For instance, if you value your free time, set clear boundaries at work.
If you value the absence of drama in your life, set boundaries against toxic people.
It’s also good to ask yourself what causes you stress, what brings you good energy and joy.
2) Share your boundaries with others
Okay, so you’ve done step #1.
What many forget afterwards is to actually communicate these to people in their lives.
Yes, it’s scary, but it’ll be easier on you and others once you’ve done it.
Just remember what social psychology researcher Brene Brown said: “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.”
3) Treat your time as limited
Saying yes to everything people ask of you can leave you with very little energy and time to do anything else.
According to therapist and author Nedra Glover Tawwab, drawing lines lets you control what you want to do with your time that actually benefit you.
4) Center your boundaries around your actions
When setting boundaries and standing up for yourself, make sure that you talk about your actions, and not the other person’s.
For instance, if you are feeling too emotionally burdened by a friend who seems to forever talk about her lovelife frustrations, don’t tell her she needs to stop.
Tell her that you need to take a break because your listening is getting unhealthy.
Because some people can take offense at this, clearly communicate that this is to preserve your relationship.
5) Put yourself first
My dad once said: “You cannot give from an empty cup.”
Contrary to what it looks like, taking care of you first isn’t selfish.
So go ahead, take that day off, arrange for a babysitter, or take that two-hour nap.
6) Learn to say no
When you need to de-stress and wind down, saying “no” can be your best friend.
In times that you feel pressured to say yes to a work-related or social request, feel free to leave or repeat your refusal.
Remember that in setting boundaries and standing up for yourself, it’s important to stick to your decision.
7) Don’t feel pressured to respond to requests right away
In instances people ask us for favors, we sometimes feel put on the spot. We feel as though we have to reply immediately.
But feeling that way is counterproductive to drawing lines.
Instead, recognize that you need to take the time out to really think about the request and if you are open to it or not.
8) Don’t force yourself to answer personal questions
It happens a lot during family reunions: you’re asked if you’re in a relationship, when you’re getting married, when you’re having babies.
Other times, your relatives make unsolicited comments about your job or your appearance (e.g., “You should be earning more at this age”, “You seem to have gained a little weight”).
Instead of suffering in silence, feel free to shut down the conversation right then and there, or calmly tell your relative that you don’t feel comfortable answering it.
9) Do not cross your own boundaries
Once you’ve established your limits, others – and yourself – will have to get used to them.
It will only create confusion if you break your own boundaries or let others do so from time to time.
The bottom line? Be consistent.
10) Always remember you deserve respect
Arguably the most essential tip out of this list, reminding yourself that you are worthy of respect is one of the best strategies for setting boundaries and standing up for yourself
henever you find yourself in a situation in which you are doubting if your boundaries are reasonable, ask yourself: why shouldn’t your boundaries be honored?
If a relationship is worth having a place in your life, then it should align with your values and goals.
But why is it so difficult?
Let’s look into some of the more specific causes people find it difficult to set clear lines around themselves.
FOMO (fear of missing out)
Back in college, I used to never say no even though I didn’t have enough money to go out partying with my friends.
I thought this opportunity would never come again, and they’d all share memories I’d never know – so I always said yes.
Looking back, I should’ve been setting boundaries and standing up for myself.
Unfortunately, that ended in me owing my friends thousands in drinks and cab fare. Eventually, I was able to pay them off, but by that time, the lesson was burned into my heart and mind.
Fear of missing out stems from a desire to experience new things and adventures.
The problem is, FOMO can make your goals less clear, leading you to be less intentional with the things you devote your attention to.
You might also be too absorbed in the search for perfection.
When your boss is counting on you to deliver quality work, you might feel pressured to push down the stress and do the job – it doesn’t matter that you only got two hours of sleep last night, or that you daughter has a school event you promised her you’d attend.
You go through all this just to receive less-than-stellar feedback, leading you to focus on that one tiny criticism.
Not setting boundaries and standing up for yourself can take a toll on your mental well-being.
This is the pressure to “over-perform” because you are expected by society to do so.
- to be a good daughter or son, you have to visit your parents and your in-laws regularly
- to be a good mother and wife, you have to make sure everyone is well-taken care of, never mind that you are on the verge of burning out
- to be a good niece or nephew, you have to be sensitive to the needs of your aunt who lives alone
- to be a good husband, you have to be a good provider
Although it’s scary to say no to people sometimes, drawing lines has so many benefits for all aspects of life, according to Tawwab.
Without them, you risk mental conditions, such as anxiety and depression. But by setting boundaries and standing up for yourself, you may even improve your relationships.
According to another expert, psychologist and counseling clinic director Lisa Bobby, boundaries are necessary as it is “the first step in protecting yourself from experiences that would be harmful to you if you allowed them.”
Maybe in your youth, your parents or peers weren’t the best at encouraging you to finding your own voice. Or perhaps you grew up trying to avoid conflict, leading you to just go with what other people wanted.
But just as you have been patient with others, be patient with yourself when it comes to standing up for yourself.
Defining your limits is, in itself, a way you can stand up for yourself. As we’ve established, you are taking care of your mental and physical well-being when you set boundaries.
Remember, doing anything less is a disservice.