11 Tips for Healthier Personal Boundaries

How to stay sane and say “no” more often, while still being loving and helpful in our relationships…

boundaries in relationships family

We humans are social “animals”. We thrive on connections with others, on relationships. Relationships are the source of our greatest joy, but also our greatest pain.

We have relationships with people, animals, things like money or “stuff”,  imagined beings, thoughts…

Boundaries are the stuff that defines relationships.

What are Personal boundaries?

Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves in relationships. A person with good boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to, but they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships…

Now, we all sometimes set our boundaries too strict or too loosely and need to adjust them accordingly. This can feel painful to us and those around us until a new balance is established.

But if we set no or insufficient boundaries on a regular basis, then we are prone to feeling stressed out, depressed, anxious, overwhelmed and eventually will burn out. If you are a helper, people-pleaser or always need to do things right, avoid making mistakes at all cost, are deadly afraid of others’ anger towards you, your boundaries likely need adjustment.

But: Isn’t helping others the right thing to do?

Hmmm, it really depends. Let me explain. How about putting it this way:

Imagine you are living in a little house with a lawn in front, next door to a similar dwelling. Both gardens have a beautiful white picket fence around them.

You have a sprinkler to water your lawn - but it is set to water your neighbors lawn. Your own lawn is turning brown while your neighbor’s lawn is thriving and green. Whose problem is it? It’s not your neighbor’s problem. It’s yours. You took on your neighbor’s problem and “helped” but are neglecting your own garden.

neighbors neighbours relationships

What would be more helpful in the long run? Adjust your sprinkler to water your garden first. And if there is enough water and energy to create water pressure, it may be sufficient to help your neighbor out if he really needs it. And maybe your neighbor needs his own sprinkler if they value a green lawn? Maybe he doesn’t care about his lawn and instead would rather grow a few vegetables?

You get the point.

But what can we do?

So, if your boundaries need adjusting, don’t beat yourself up, feel guilty or ashamed. Yes, you probably tend to have those feelings, too, right?

How do I know? I used to have extremely ill-defined boundaries myself and still struggle sometimes with setting these.

I used to try helping everybody, whether I had time or energy to do so, felt like it, or even whether they really wanted or needed it.

The self-inflicted burden eventually got too heavy and drained my energy so much that I ended up in chronic back pain, depressed and nearly committed suicide. It ended my career as a physician and landed me in a mental hospital instead.

If you haven’t watched my story, I invite you to do it now.

I had to learn it the hard way. I hope the following tips help you to not get down that far in the hole like I did.

11 Tips for healthier boundaries

Tip 1 - Know What is acceptable to you

Before getting involved in a situation, know what is acceptable to you – and what isn’t. Be very clear about it, at least with yourself, so you don’t get pulled into giving just a little more… and more… until you are giving way to much.

Tip 2 - Respect Your energy and time limits

Know and respect your energy and time limits. We only have 24 hours a day and only so much physical, mental, spiritual and financial resources and energy. Don’t overspend your own money, time, physical or mental strength or you will feel more and more bankrupt in those areas. Burn-out is a consequence of overspending your mental, spiritual and/or physical energy and a sign of insufficient boundaries.

Tip 3 - it's not selfish to set boundaries

Setting boundaries is not cruel or selfish. It is necessary for overall health and mental well-being.

Tip 4 - Know what is important to you

Know your personal values. As different individuals, our limits and boundaries are different. Adjust your boundaries according to your physical, emotional, spiritual, cultural and financial values.

Tip 5 - Explore your goals and priorities

Know your own goals and priorities. They help define what’s acceptable to you – and what isn’t.

Tip 6 - Listen to your gut

Listen to your thoughts and emotions. If you are feeling resentful, don’t ignore it. This can be a sign of a boundary violation.

Tip 7 - learn to be assertive

Learn assertiveness skills. Assertiveness is a continuum, from submissive and passive on one end to aggressive and dominant ono the other. Stay in the “golden middle” as much as you can.

Tip 8 - Love yourself as others

Respect and Love Yourself as well as others. The second half of the bible verse: “Love others as you love yourself” is often forgotten and read as that we “should” love others. We forget that we cannot truly love others if we don’t love ourselves first.

Tip 9 - serve others from your overflowing cup

Fill our own cup so it starts to overflow and then we can give freely from this over-abundance. I truly believe that this is the true meaning of this bible verse and the true importance of self-love.

Tip 10 - The pre-requisite to truly loving others

Self-love is not selfish. It is the pre-requisite to being able to truly love others without giving up your own self-respect and self-identity.

Tip 11 - be your own best friend

Be your own best friend and treat yourself as such. Listen to the thoughts in your head. Are you mean to yourself? We often are. Ask yourself: Would you talk like this to your best friend? If the answer is “no, of course not”, it may be time to become your own best friend.

Connect with Dr. Christine Sauer

Need help setting better boundaries?

Set up a free chat over a cup of coffee or tea with me and let’s talk!

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