It often starts with a request. Someone asks you to do them a favor or lend a hand. It’s a nice feeling to be needed, and being a helpful person is a good thing, isn’t it? Thus, you say yes. But secretly, you know that you will feel drained eventually because you already have so much on your plate. Or it may lead to unhappiness as you don’t enjoy doing this kind of task. Does this sound familiar?
You may also get into the situation that someone wants to touch you physically against your will or asks for personal information that you are unready to give. Since they are a person in authority or someone you don’t want to lose, you “pull yourself together” and stand the discomfort.
Many introverts, especially shy ones, are so-called “people pleasers” and accept a matter even though they want to decline. The fear of offending or hurting the counterpart by saying no makes them put their own needs aside. Bad mistake! It is crucial for our mental health that you set boundaries. And yes, that’s difficult, and you won’t learn it overnight. It takes both time and practice, but it’s worth the effort.
In this article, I’ll introduce to you my three steps for setting and preserving healthy boundaries.
Step 1: Identify Your Boundaries
Before you can set a boundary, you have to find out what triggers your negative feelings. Here’s a simple but effective way to do that: monitor yourself carefully and listen to your inner voice. When do you feel uncomfortable, stressed, or frustrated? Take a small notebook with you or use your phone to jot down your stress factors. You may experience so many different situations of discomfort that you can’t remember them all, so it’s essential to keep a record.
Don’t consider only your emotional boundaries like sharing personal information or fear of something, but also your physical ones (personal space, physical touch, working-over). What are your stress situations in school or university, at work, in your relationships with your partner, friends, and family?
Take at least one week to realize what your boundaries are and note them down. But don’t put yourself under pressure. You can extend your list anytime.
Step 2: Name Your Boundaries
After studying your own feelings for a while, it’s time to set your boundaries. Go through your list and ask yourself, “What exactly made me feel bad in this situation?” and “What do I have to change to feel better in that matter?” Make notes about your thoughts and insights. Eventually, formulate your boundaries. You can list them on a “contract” with yourself that you sign on the bottom to commit that you will keep your limits from now on.
Also, think about the exceptions. Are there people in your life you trust that much that you will make an exception for them? Here’s an example: I absolutely hate phone calls. Whenever people ask me to give them my phone number, I tell them that I prefer communicating via email or text. I make two exceptions, though. I agree with telephoning if there’s no other option or if my parents, sister, or boyfriend want to call me.
Step 3: Implement Your Boundaries
Now that you have set your limits, it’s time to communicate them. Yes, I know, that’s the hardest part. If you’re like me, you won’t be able to implement them overnight.
I recommend to start with something small. Check your list and pick the most manageable situation. For example, if your friend wants you to party with them Friday night, but you need some alone time to recharge from the busy week, let them know about your feelings and that you need to cancel on them. You may offer that you can go out on Saturday night when you feel more relaxed. If you don’t like parties at all, you could ask your friend to watch a movie together or go for a drink. After practicing this situation for a while, add a second situation. Little by little, you will learn to keep your boundaries and say no.
An excellent way to encourage yourself is to focus on the benefits. What will your life be like if you strictly observe your limits? How will it change for the better? If I do this exercise, I feel a weight taking off my chest. Yes, I can feel it physically. It’s such a relief, and just the thought of not making myself a victim of my own fear of rejection anymore puts a smile on my face.
I hope my article was helpful to you. In one of my next blog posts, I will detail how saying no politely because I’m aware that this is another introvert struggle.
Did this blog post resonate with you? Do you have a hard time setting and keeping your boundaries? Let me know in the comments below.
- “How to Set Better Boundaries: 9 Tips for People-Pleasers” by Hailey Magee on Tiny Buddha
- “10 Way to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries” by Margarita Tartakovsky, M. S. on PsychCentral
- “How to Set Healthy Boundaries: 10 Examples + PDF Worksheets” by Joaquín Selva, Bc.S., Psychologist on PositivePsychology.com
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