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Fundamentally, boundaries are limits you put in place so that you’re able to look after yourself. By putting boundaries in place, you make it clear to your kids, parents, partner, friends, co-workers, boss, and even random strangers in the street what you will and won’t accept from them. If you struggle to be assertive at times, this might seem tricky, but the good news is that it’s a skill that improves with practice.

Start by tuning in

Noticing how you feel is key while tuning in, your emotions are a great indicator to you at how well you are setting boundaries with yourself & those around you. Anger means you have gone far beyond setting the boundary that is right for you. You may express that outwardly projecting it towards someone or by self shaming & being self critical which means you are internalising that anger at yourself. Neither are helpful, but once you isolate what you are feeling you can go back & find the source of this issue.

Before you can set appropriate boundaries, you need to know what’s bothering you and what you’d like to change. Think about the situations in your life which regularly make you feel resentful, irritated, or as though someone is taking advantage of you. What’s happening? How does it make you feel? Do you resent always being the one who makes coffee before the meeting? Are you irritated when your spouse interrupts your meditation sessions? Be clear in your own mind about what the problem is, how it makes you feel, and what change you would like to see.

Communicate clearly

To set up boundaries with the people in your life, you need to make it clear to them what those boundaries are. This reduces confusion in cases where a person genuinely didn’t realise the impact their behaviour was having (e.g., a coworker who doesn’t mind others borrowing her stapler without asking, and assumed you felt the same), and it makes it difficult for the other person to claim not to know that something bothered you. Sit down with the person (or people) involved, and explicitly tell them what your new boundary is, from ‘Please ask before you use my stapler’ to ‘If you make any more racist remarks, I’ll be speaking to our supervisor.’ Learning effective communication to express these boundaries is a great way to make change. The objective is to create less conflict when expressing your new boundary & to feel heard & confident, communication training will help with this.

Be consistent

You need to stick to your new boundary vigilantly because if you don’t, you can be sure no one else will! If you’ve spoken to your partner about not distracting you during working hours, don’t respond to the flirtatious text they send you when you’re supposed to be on the clock. If you’ve arranged for your colleagues to take turns making the coffee, don’t switch the pot on when it’s not your turn. Be calm, but firm, and remember that you have an absolute right to establish boundaries for yourself.

When you need help, reach out

If you’re struggling to identify and establish appropriate boundaries, & how to communicate them, life coaching may be just what you need to work through the issues that you’re facing. For more information on how Open For Life can help, contact Eiran on 0466 495 711 or email eiran@openforlife.com.au.