Updated: Feb 21
Setting healthy boundaries is one of the most important things a young woman in college can do to take control of her life. With the demands of classes, extracurriculars, social life, and other responsibilities, it can be difficult to know how to set boundaries and maintain them. This blog post will provide you with tips on how to set and enforce boundaries in your life, so you can find peace and focus on the things that matter most to you.
What do we mean by boundaries?
Boundaries are rules and limits that help define and protect your space, energy, and sense of self. Setting boundaries is a crucial part of healthy relationships and is essential for you to establish and maintain your autonomy.
Boundaries can take the form of physical, emotional, or mental limits and you can set boundaries for yourself as well as for others. Setting boundaries means understanding what you are comfortable with, and what you’re not comfortable with, and communicating these limits to people in your life.
Why are boundaries important?
Boundaries are a keyway to take care of yourself. When you understand how to set and maintain healthy boundaries, you can avoid the feelings of resentment, disappointment, and anger that build up when limits have been pushed. They are beneficial for far more than simply defining your identity. Having them in place limits your exposure to stress, protects your mental well-being and are the root of a fulfilled balanced life.
Without them, you can lose yourself in your studies, work, relationships, or family obligations. With them, you have a sense of agency over your decisions. Good boundaries free you to live life on your terms and in turn, boost your self-esteem and confidence.
3-Steps to Define Your Boundary
To successfully introduce and set boundaries, it's key to understand why they're each important to you and how they will benefit your emotional well-being. Take a moment to enjoy some self-reflection and get clear on your rights and your limits.
1. Set aside time to ask yourself:
- What is causing me unnecessary stress or discomfort?
- What do I look forward to each day vs. what do I dread?
- Who or what gives me energy?
- What areas of my life do I feel exhausted by?
The answers to these key questions provide you with greater clarity on where you should be establishing your boundaries.
2. Remind yourself of your rights:
- I have a right to say no without feeling guilty.
- I have a right to be treated with respect.
- I have a right to make my needs as important as others.
- I have a right to be accepting of my mistakes and failures.
- I have a right not to meet others’ unreasonable expectations of me.
3. Listen to your instincts:
Like an internal compass, boundaries can start with a "gut feeling" that tells you when you have the time or energy to devote to something vs. when you need to say "no".
3 Ways to Begin Mastering the Art of Boundary Setting
Now that you've defined your boundaries, not sure how to go about creating them or effectively uphold existing ones? We've rounded up some of the most effective approaches to try -
1. Communicate Boundaries Assertively and with Kindness:
Boundaries are rooted in clear communication. The more precise and assertively you can express your boundaries, the more likely they will be respected. Note that you may need to repeat yourself a few times, but please do not ever feel the need to apologize or explain your boundaries.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is setting boundaries in their minds, but not openly communicating them with people in their life that need to be aware of them.
Assertive language is clear and non-negotiable without blaming or threatening the receiver. "I" statements are powerful for this purpose because they show confidence by expressing thoughts and feelings without blaming or worrying about what the other person may be thinking.
HERE'S AN EXAMPLE OF HOW TO USE I STATEMENTS
I feel ____ when _____ because ____________________________. What I need is ______________________________________________.
Effective Communication: "I feel overwhelmed when every moment of our trip is planned, because I need space to enjoy the moment. What I need is time to relax and see what unfolds."
Ineffective Communication: "You're making this exhausting and I don't want to do all of this."
2. The Power of Saying "No":
If you find yourself saying "yes" to more things than you can emotionally (or physically) handle, you can end up with an overflow of duties and responsibilities that feels hard to keep up with. You may also find yourself forgoing your self-care as you try to meet the demands of all the people and things that you've said "yes" to.
Even with the stress and potential overwhelm saying "yes", so many of us have been programmed to feel guilty for saying "no". In reality, saying "no" is an expression of self-love and sovereignty over your daily decisions.
Saying "no" doesn't have to be rude and it doesn't require an explanation. Instead of saying "maybe, let me get back to you..." when you really mean "no", try saying, "no, I can't."
Remember that every "yes" and "no" shapes your reality. You have the power to choose how you will spend your time and energy. If something doesn't feel right in your gut, then you probably shouldn't do it.
3. Make Time for Yourself:
The science of self-care is clear - taking alone time for yourself is linked to more confidence, greater creativity, more emotional intelligence and emotional stability in challenging situations. Plus, it helps prevent burnout.
So how about trying an experiment, where you make the time for yourself? For the next month, say "no" to something else, so you can say "yes" to set aside 2 hours a week for "me time". Communicate with your friends or family that you won't be available during this time. Whether you get outside, take a rest day, read your favorite book or hit the yoga studio, creating time for yourself is crucial for healthier boundaries.
And if 2 hours seems too challenging to carve out as a start, why not begin with 1 hour?
3 Tips to Set Boundaries Like a Pro
1. Start Small:
If you don't have many boundaries in place now, the thought of introducing more may seem overwhelming. So, build them up slowly. Doing this allows you to take things at a more comfortable pace and provides time for you to reflect on whether it's heading in the right direction or if you need to make some adjustments in some way.
2. Be Consistent:
Letting boundaries slide can lead to confusion and encourage new expectations and demands from others. Try your best to keep things consistent and steady. This helps to reinforce your original thresholds, and it ensures those lines remain clearly established.
3. Gain Perspective:
Get a healthy level of thinking about boundaries. Meaning, have them but don't be distracted by them. As we noted before, go with your gut. We can forget that we're actually quite good at navigating most things and are intuitive as human beings.
In Summary: Boundaries Are Here to Help You
Setting boundaries is one of the most powerful ways to help yourself. Think of them as a way of fortifying your relationships with yourself and others rather than building walls to keep people out.
By defining your boundaries, communicating them and setting aside time for yourself now, you are building a habit that will empower you to find your balance, take control and live an authentic life.