The holiday season is fast approaching, and for many of us our homes will be filled with outside guest or in-laws, our schedules will start to fill up with organizational or religious events, or our jobs might be asking us to pick up extra hours. Whatever the case may be, we often find ourselves in situations where we over-commit ourselves to please others, and as a result, we feel overwhelmed, upset, bitter, or unappreciated. This year instead of prematurely rushing into filling your schedule, I want to share with you some tips on setting healthy boundaries.
Know what you want: This could be hard at first, but take time to think about how you feel about the decision or commitment. Think of what is expected of you, and if you are willing to meet the expectations. Also, think about any similar situations from the past, and how you felt after you committed yourself. Once you have truly analyzed your expectations, share them with the person asking of you. Is there any room for negotiation? Once all the cards on the table, then decided if you want to move forward.
What is acceptable or unacceptable: This is when you decide what you are willing to allow or not allow. One way to determine whether an action or behavior is acceptable is to think of the emotions you experience after the person has made an action. Usually, if there are more positive emotions experienced from the action or behavior, it’s acceptable, and unacceptable if there are more negative emotions experienced. If something tends to “rub you the wrong way,” then that’s a clear indicator that a boundary has been crossed, and it’s unacceptable. Imagine that you are hosting a holiday social for adults only and your sister decides to bring her teenage daughter anyway, the first thought that comes to your mind about the situation will probably inform you if this behavior is acceptable or unacceptable.
Make a list: As mentioned earlier, knowing what is acceptable or unacceptable will help you set boundaries. Making a list of what you will or will not tolerate helps make your boundaries visible and more realistic, because now you have a visible reference. Some people even post their list for others to see; an example would be house rules. If your guest sees a sign to take off their shoes at the door, you might not have to ask them verbally.
It’s OK to say NO: In some cases, the best answer you can give someone is NO. Saying NO opposed to MAYBE will not only relieve the person asking of you, but also gives you peace of mind that you made a decision, and it’s closed. Once you say NO, most people will no longer ask of you about the situation. Just make sure you are saying NO for the right reasons, and not out of fear of commitment or failure.
Stand your ground: The most important thing to remember about boundaries is that you have to stick to them. If you do not respect your boundaries, no one else will, and this means you have to be consistent and firm. Standing your ground is the most challenging part of setting boundaries. If someone continues to disrespect your boundaries after you have informed them, you will have to decide if you want to continue to allow this person in your life, or are you willing to lose a relationship to keep your dignity.
Setting boundaries can initially be intimidating, especially if you tend to be a more passive person. The more you practice the easier it will become. Just remember that your needs, wellness, and happiness is just as important as the next person’s. I wish you a happy holiday season!