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Learning Your Limits

At some point in your life, you have probably heard the phrase “treat others how you want to be treated.” This phrase is often used to teach children to be kind and respectful to others. This is something that is taught as early as preschool, but when did you learn to be kind and respectful towards yourself? When did you learn to be aware of your emotional and physical comfortability? When did you learn to make limits and adjustments to become comfortable again when placed in uncomfortable situations,? Most of you reading this never learned these skills and instead continue to put other people’s needs and comfort above your own. While it may seem easier to always say yes, having little to no limits in relationships can cause resentments, increased conflicts, and anger.


One simple way of preventing issues and improving self-care is to set limits, or as we call them in the counseling field, boundaries. Boundaries are rules that are set and based off your personal values and experiences. Creating and holding boundaries helps you honor and respect yourself, and in turn strengthens your professional and personal relationships. Start by paying attention to how you think and feel in different situations. Being more self-aware of your comfort level can help you recognize the parts of your life where boundaries may be lacking. If you are interested in strengthening your boundaries, here are four simple steps that can help.


Step one: Plan Ahead

Plan what you want to say and how you want to say it. Practice these conversations in front of a mirror before you have them, or in your car on the way to work. Practicing and planning can help you build confidence for the real-life conversation you are going have.


Step two: Be assertive but not aggressive.

Be clear and direct when expressing your limit to another person. Aggressive language is harsh and places the blame on the other person. This can cause them to become defensive and angry. Using “I statements” can be an effective way to communicate your boundaries to others without coming off as aggressive.


Step three: Body Language

When you are setting your boundary, face the other person with confidence and make eye contact. Use a steady tone of voice at an appropriate volume.


Step four: “No” is a complete sentence

When we go from having zero boundaries to setting even one boundary, people may become upset. They can become angry or disappointed at the idea of not being able to walk all over you. If the person you are setting the boundary with tries to push back and bulldoze your limit, just say no. Kindly but firmly repeat your boundary again and remember you do not owe them an explanation. Your boundaries are about your choices and needs not theirs.


Kindness is not always something that has been taught to practice, but practicing kindness can be done through the form of setting boundaries. Setting boundaries may be difficult if you have never done it before, but practice makes perfect! Sometimes setting boundaries may upset others if they are not used to them, but just remember to stay steady, calm, and firm when setting boundaries- even if that means telling them no. Boundaries are important part being kind to yourself, as they help you uphold your own choices and needs.

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