Your friends and family very likely hold a place for you when you need to vent. You likely do the same in return. Sometimes, we do it when we’re not in a position to offer good advice because we’re not in a good headspace ourselves.
That’s what family and friendship look like. You often worry about turning them away because they might think you don’t care. I’m not just talking about sitting down and offering them a shoulder to lean on when they’re going through turbulent times. I’m talking about going out of your way to pick their kids up in a pinch. Or, babysitting even though you have a million things on your plate. Maybe it’s having them over for dinner and being unable to get rid of them after hours.
It’s that type of thing that highlights the importance of setting boundaries. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t pick someone’s kids up if they’re in a bind. It’s more about understanding your limits, drawing a line in the sand, and sticking to it. You want to be able to help the people you love, but you can’t do that if you’re struggling to keep your head above water.
Setting boundaries is a key aspect of looking after your mental health. If you don’t set them, you end up doing lots of things for other people, sacrificing your time and energy, when you have other things to do. It’s worked for you so far, though, so why is it so bad?
It’s going to impact your relationships. It might not have impacted them yet, but it eventually will. When you have a lack of boundaries or unhealthy boundaries, you start to hold onto other people’s feelings rather than your own. This will fuel anger, stress, anxiety, and resentment. By setting boundaries you start making decisions for yourself and letting people know how you feel.
Before you set boundaries, you need a bit of self-awareness to understand where you are and what you have the bandwidth to deal with. You also need to practice self-care to protect your mental health. If this is something you struggle with, schedule your mental health and do it in pen so it cannot be changed.
If someone tries to cross your boundary, you need to be firm, but you can be honest too. If someone gets in touch and you don’t have the capacity to give them the attention they need, be honest with you.
It can be as simple as texting to say hey, sorry I missed your call, I’ll get back to you when I can. Or, maybe they’re close enough for you to say hey, I’m having a rough day and need some space to clear my mind and address my own issues.
Some people may take offense, but the more consistent you are with your boundaries, the quicker everyone will realize you mean what you say. At that point, people will stop trying to push you and understand that you’re not being dismissive of them, but simply protecting yourself.
If someone does try to push back, stand firm and do not apologize for drawing your line in the sand. There will always be one person who wants to push you to your limit to see if you will break. You are not accountable for someone else’s reaction, you are only accountable for your own. Do not allow their reaction to break you down and do not give in.
Family can be a challenging prospect for boundary setting because family members often feel more entitled to your time and energy. If it’s family you are dealing with, you may need to take a different tactic. You can dedicate a specific time and day of the week to listen to their rants and ignore them outside of those times (unless it’s a proper emergency, of course).
This doesn’t mean you should ignore your friends in times of need or, make out like every call for support (or just a chat) is an offense to your emotional capacity. It’s more about understanding the toxic element in your life and actively managing it to better your own state of being.
Setting boundaries can eliminate lots of personal stress and increase your self-confidence.