The importance of setting boundaries — it's time for self-respect
This November, I’m challenging myself to write every day. You can read them all under the “Shorts” category, where each post should be around 500–1k words. Think of them as “less polished” than my usual longer blog posts. This is Day 27.
Boundaries can be established, and can be either respected or violated. Obviously you'd want your boundaries to be respected, but what does that mean? Cambridge Dictionary defines "boundaries" as "the limit of what someone (i.e. you) considers to be acceptable behaviour". Suffice to say, they serve as a guideline for how you want to be treated and how others should treat you.
Boundaries can be set for yourself physically (personal space), emotionally (personal questions), psychologically (abuse), or even in your relationships and for work. This also includes refusing to take responsibility for the emotions or actions of others. For example, if you make it a rule to stop replying to emails after a certain time, that's setting work boundaries. Another example is telling someone "no" (with respect, not curtly) without taking responsibility if they get angry or upset.
We set boundaries because we all have different limits as a result of growing up in different environments. Some may be okay having their personal space invaded, while others may not. Because boundaries are rarely discussed in social settings, it's important to inform others before our boundaries get accidentally crossed. That is when you must clearly communicate them if possible.
Establishing healthy boundaries for yourself doesn't mean you're being "rude", but rather that you respect yourself enough to know when to prioritise your needs over others. You won't require approval from anyone because you know what you want and what you don't.
Some people, perhaps with lower self-esteem, may feel like they don't want to let others down, because they're afraid of displeasing and being rejected by others. However, you can be assertive and still help others, while not be treated as a doormat. Being a doormat is having weak boundaries that people take advantage of. Saying "no" to things you don't want to do and to others might feel uncomfortable at first, but think of it this way: no one will be there for you all the time, except yourself. If you don't have friends or family nearby at that moment of time to help, you need to find a way to defend yourself.
When your boundaries are respected, you develop healthier relationships with yourself and others. When people see your self-respect, they reciprocate. At the same time, you're able to look after your mental health by focusing on your needs over others. It's part of self-care too. Boundaries allow you to shape your identity by defining what you can and cannot tolerate. This is the level of self-awareness that is needed from you to figure out what your limits are and stick to them. What is something you can accept and cannot? Identify them clearly. For example, if you value your time but someone is late, you will express your displeasure to them. Otherwise, the person will repeat the same mistake in future, assuming it's okay for them to cross that boundary.
If you're new to setting boundaries, it's normal to feel guilty at first. I'm still learning too, but for the price of your mental health, I think it's pretty worthwhile to set your boundaries. Start by setting smaller boundaries that are more manageable for you. When you've become more comfortable, slowly expand your boundaries to accommodate more.
That being said, if I've ever invaded your boundaries without my knowing, please let me know. I won't be offended, in fact, I'll appreciate it.