With the upcoming holiday season and its related demands, let's talk about boundaries.
Whether at work or home, boundaries begin inside you when you sense a need and decide to care for yourself. You know something’s got to give. You can’t keep doing life this way. But you might not know what needs to change. Or how to make it happen. Learning how to set boundaries is a basic life skill. Yet most of us were never taught how.
Boundaries are not about taking drastic actions and ejecting people from your life. They’re not about drawing a line in the sand one day and everything changes. Instead, boundaries are fundamental to how we share space and resources. Without them, our relationships and groups are often in a state of confusion.
We use boundaries to shape our relationships, set the norms and teach others how we want to be treated. When clear boundaries are part of our usual functioning, anxieties and tensions are much lower.
These are just a few aspects of healthy boundaries:
- Taking care of yourself first, without hesitation
- Creating space to communicate freely
- Expressing hardships and needs with a sense of ease
- Being okay with saying no even when it’s uncomfortable
When we learn how to better take care of our needs and communicate those, we also learn how to better read and tend to the needs of others. Herd animals do this all day long. Animal groups are in a constant feedback loop so they can attend to ever-changing needs. As human animals – as mammals – this is an innate part of us.
Open communication about our needs allows us to figure out, on any given day, how we can balance our needs. Boundaries are the basic tool or relational skills we use to do this.
The more you practice boundary work, the easier and more natural it becomes.