Boundary-setting is one of the most important-yet-undervalued life skills, in my experience.
I’m not sure why I was never taught about boundaries and instead had to learn about them on the Internet.
Here are some first principles of boundary-setting:
1/ Boundaries emerge from self-knowledge and self-love.
2/ The need to be clear about one’s boundaries is not limited to romantic relationships; it’s relevant across the entire social domain of human life.
3/ Most important is to know your own boundaries, which means understanding what you are and are not okay with, in terms of treatment you receive from other people.
4/ The most important skill, perhaps, is recognizing when someone is crossing a boundary of yours or seems like they’re going to, and having the clarity/strength to assert that you are not okay with what is happening.
5/ It is very difficult to learn to tell people things they don’t want to hear, clearly and assertively, but this is an essential skill.
6/ Boundaries relate to self-respect: If there are ways in which you’re allowing people to treat you that are making you respect yourself less, you’re probably being too agreeable and have weak/unclear boundaries. If you allow people to cross your boundaries repeatedly, your self-worth will deteriorate and you may gradually become highly resentful, which could eventually result in an explosive and regretful act of pent-up rage.
7/ Boundaries are about having a clear sense of how you deserve to be treated / what compassion looks like, and letting people know when they are deviating from your innate sense of what you deserve to a degree you’re not comfortable with—as well as then clearly communicating how you would prefer they alter their behavior.
8/ If a person repeatedly crosses your boundaries and does not respond to repeated feedback, it is likely that the best course of action is to cut that person out of your life, or change the nature of your relationship with them (e.g. end romantic relationship or business partnership), or at least greatly dial back the amount of time you spend with them.
9/ One’s boundaries are established and reinforced by how one treats oneself: If you live in a way that is disrespectful to yourself—your body, mind, soul—you are much more likely to allow other people to disrespect you as well. Disrespecting yourself reinforces the idea that you deserve maltreatment, and you are then likely to attract people into your life who will ensure that that idea becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
10/ Thus, clear and self-respecting boundary-setting is a form of self-love. People who love themselves to a significant degree will almost always have healthier boundaries and boundary-setting habits than those who are not so in touch with their own worth. (You are intrinsically precious beyond measure. Yes, I’m talking to you.)
11/ Boundaries are communicated by the way in which one carries oneself. Those who stand up straight, with dignity and poise—and who communicate assertively, humbly, and compassionately—are implicitly conveying to those around them that they respect themselves and know what they deserve. You won’t need to explicitly state your boundaries as frequently if your actions/body language convey self-respect.
12/ In sum, boundary-setting is about knowing who you are, knowing your worth, and knowing what you deserve. Effective boundary-setting entails becoming increasingly good at 1) treating yourself in the way you deserve to be treated—respecting your own boundaries—and 2) communicating your boundaries to other people, implicitly and explicitly. Boundaries are about dignity, self-love, and self-respect.