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  • Writer's pictureLex Ellis (he/she/they)

How to Set Boundaries

Understanding Boundaries

If you're anything like I am as a person, you're already uncomfortable at the thought of the word "boundaries." If you grew up in trauma and chaos like I did, your boundaries game isn't really where it needs to be. For me, the boundaries portion of DBT is so intense and complex. To help explain it, I've decided to make a short series of blog posts on the topic. So buckle up and get ready to get uncomfortable! Suppose you were raised in a chaotic environment for whatever reason. In this case, you likely do not have a good concept of healthy boundaries. The majority of your coping mechanisms for this developed out of complete necessity. In the process of unlearning any unhealthy ones, you'll also learn how to make healthy boundaries for yourself. No matter your upbringing and your past life, it's never too late to start fresh and begin making a new, healthy life for yourself. Boundaries are a necessary part of healing and maintenance. So, take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to do amazing things for yourself. It will be hard and scary, but it'll be amazingly worth it, and you won't regret your new boundaries in your new healthy life.

How to Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is a challenging new skill to learn. Thankfully, we can think of a few simple steps when navigating this new skill, either alone or with the help of your therapist or counselor. To do these steps, you need to practice mindfulness and pay attention to your feelings and the situation. 1. Think about what you're giving up when you say yes.

Many people that have problems with boundaries are programmed to instantaneously say yes. The next time you're asked to devote your time to someone or something else, pause for a moment to think about what you're giving up. Try to weigh your most essential priorities before going to that automatic reaction of "yes."

2. Don't rush your response.

You do not owe anyone a rushed answer. Instead, you deserve to take your time and figure out what is best for you at the time.

3. Pay attention to your feelings.

Keep in touch with yourself. Listen to your feelings and validate them. Your needs matter, and you may need to remind yourself of that. Check in with Wise Mind.

4. Give yourself permission.

Often, people will say "yes" out of guilt or perceived obligation. Instead, you need to be gentle with yourself and remind yourself that your feelings and needs must also be met.

5. Set small goals.

Much like in other aspects of DBT, starting off with smaller goals is an excellent way to begin. Saying "no" takes practice, and if you start off with a boundary that's too big and overwhelming, you may fall back into old habits. Set small, achievable goals at first, and practice saying "no" for less important decisions.

6. Why are you saying yes?

Keep yourself in check when you're thinking about saying yes. What are the reasons you're saying "yes"? Are the reasons a higher priority than your peace? Are you wanting to say "yes" because you feel obligated? Always make sure to check in with yourself and your feelings and be mindful of what you're saying.

7. Make your boundaries known.

To implement your boundaries, you have to communicate them. This may be the most challenging part of all. It's one thing to know your boundaries within yourself. Still, it's a whole different thing to say them out loud to another person you plan to enforce your boundaries with.

Following these general steps are an excellent way to begin this journey. Write them down. Refer back to them often. Journal every chance you get, and never forget that you are worthy of the peace that comes with healthy boundaries.


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