“You are your biggest priority, so take care of yourself.” That’s my mindful reminder during times of social hardships. Because sometimes in life (more times than often) we have to set rules. Sometimes in life we have to place the ones we love second, in order to place ourselves first. Sometimes we have to get accustomed to saying, “no” even if we feel obligated to saying, “yes.” And sometimes, we have to remove ourselves physically to protect ourselves mentally.
That is the power of setting boundaries.
Contrary to what you may have heard, setting boundaries goes deeper than just saying “no.” Even though “No” is a very much so a complete sentence. Setting boundaries is when we mindfully place emotional, physical, and spiritual barriers on those around us, in order to both protect and support our overall well-being. And setting boundaries may also look different to us setting them.
It can be choosing not to engage in conversation.
It can be ignoring a phone call because you don’t want to exchange dialogue right now.
It can be declining a social invitation.
It can be standing up for yourself to anyone who makes you feel unworthy or unimportant.
It can be leaving a job that makes you constantly feel disgruntled or depressed.
And it can be discontinuing relationships that compromise your happiness.
In simpler terms, setting boundaries is an extension of “protecting your peace” and “revoking people’s access to you.” And it is what I consider to be the most elite form of self-care. So, if being around certain people drains you of your energy, start declining invitations that involve them. If you are no longer in the social space to participate in a pre-planned outing, simply cancel. If you don’t want to do something you feel obligated to do, then don’t. If a relationship is no longer feeding your soul, then leave. If someone in your family dismisses your feelings and opinions, speak up for yourself immediately. If your friendships are no longer uplifting and beneficial to your growth, then separate yourself.
I personally was belated when it came to setting boundaries with those I love. Being a black woman, I always felt there was an unwritten responsibility handed to us to please everyone around us; even if that meant putting ourselves last. I found this to be exceptionally accurate growing up in a Carribean Hispanic family. There was no such thing as setting boundaries during my childhood and adolescent years. You see, island people are very disciplined when it comes to four things: respect, morals, values, and religion. You are to do what you are told, and there was no leniency in vocalizing something that didn’t sit well with you. Consequently, if and when we attempted to articulate those emotional opinions, we were then labeled as “disrespectful” and “unruly.” So as a Caribbean child, there was a level of submission that came with my upbringing. Now retrospectively reflecting, I see why I initially had difficulty setting boundaries in my now adulthood. And as a black woman in society today, I kept finding myself trying to still “people please” with those around me. Similarly to my childhood, I was avoiding being mislabeled as a bitch or rude as a consequence of my proactive decision to protect my peace. But that’s just it. It’s my peace to protect.
So my advice to you is this:
Learn to communicate your boundaries sooner rather than later.
Learn to make your priorities more precise so guilt doesn’t take over when setting boundaries. And learn to be unapologetically firm with your “No’s.” Because a “maybe” is not a “no,” and it leaves room to become a “yes.”
I say this because setting boundaries is also a form of self-love. It is an extension of how aware and respectful we are of our needs and happiness. It is a mindful reinforcement of what triggers us, stresses us, and drains us. And sometimes it is the motivation we need to not repeat unwanted lessons. This is the power of setting boundaries.