Setting boundaries isn’t a one-time occurrence. You may need to repeatedly set the same boundary with some people. And you may need to identify some strategies to keep yourself true to your self management goals. Below are a few tips to help you stick to your boundaries when the going gets tough:
Write them down
Writing down your boundaries can help you clarify what you want to achieve and why it’s important.
Consider what you’ll do if someone repeatedly violates your boundaries
We can only ask people to change their behavior—we can’t force them to change. However, that doesn’t mean you should tolerate hurtful or disrespectful behavior. Often, you can choose not to interact with people who violate your boundaries (or at least minimize your contact with them). For example, if your sister persists in coming over unannounced, you don’t have to open the door and have a conversation with her. Doing so undermines your attempts to set a boundary and lets her know that there are no consequences for violating your boundaries.
Setting boundaries is a skill, and, if you’re not used to doing it, it will take some practice. Write a script before you set difficult boundaries. Rehearsing what you want to say (alone or with a trusted friend or therapist) will increase your confidence and skills.
Know which boundaries are nonnegotiable
We all have some boundaries that are deal-breakers. These are usually boundaries related to health and safety. But, it makes sense for some of your boundaries to be flexible. You might intentionally make an exception to a boundary for a special occasion, such as Christmas. Or you might compromise on a boundary with your spouse to ensure that you both get your needs met. Knowing which boundaries are nonnegotiable will help you determine when flexibility is useful and when it’s conceding.
When you say no to people and activities that drain your resources or fill you with dread, it creates space for people and activities that renew your energy and bring you joy. The holidays aren’t just about making other people happy; your needs and wants matter, too! And when you feel your best, you can fully engage in holiday activities and authentically connect with others.
- Sharon Martin, DSW, LCSW