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How to Set Boundaries With Yourself

1. Be honest with yourself.

Key points

  • Boundaries are essential for establishing a healthy relationship with yourself.
  • You are more likely to find happiness by being present in the moment rather than imagining a better tomorrow.
  • Setting healthy boundaries with yourself starts with being honest and honoring your limits.
Ralph Katieb/Unsplash
Source: Ralph Katieb/Unsplash

We live in a society that constantly tells us that more is better. There is pressure to make more money, buy more stuff, and post more experiences on social media seeking likes from friends and followers.

Evidence shows that we have fallen for the propaganda. The median size of newly constructed houses has grown by 150 percent since 1980 even though fewer people are living under the same roof. Cars are also getting larger to accommodate all the stuff we haul around.

Our spending is hurting our wallets. Households continue to accumulate more debt with balances on credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages on the rise. Higher inflation rates have impacted our bottom line, but that does not paint the complete picture. Our appetite for more has turned into an avalanche with no end in sight.

Our spending habits represent a desperate search to escape feelings of dissatisfaction and find some happiness in an increasingly stressful and hectic world. After all, if everyone else is following this pattern of behavior, why would you do things differently?

Happiness is not found in stuff. Nor is it found in the accumulation of money. In a survey of millionaires, the majority reported that they needed further increases in wealth to be happier.

Nor is happiness found in dreaming of your next vacation or purchase. Such thinking only reinforces that something is currently missing in your life, which leads to further dissatisfaction.

Being mentally present by matching your thoughts with your actions is a better predictor of happiness. In other words, you are more likely to experience happiness by being present while folding laundry rather than imagining a sunny getaway as you fold laundry.

The question then becomes how to start being more present in your daily life. I believe the answer is to set boundaries with yourself and going against the collective grain of instant gratification. You need to start saying no to impulsive purchases, late-night TV binges, and unhealthy habits that ultimately leave you feeling empty and guilty.

This is easier said than done. As a society, we have collectively forgotten the value of saying no. Take a stroll at your local bookstore and you will find countless books teaching you how to set boundaries. Boundaries are essential for establishing and sustaining healthy interpersonal relationships. They delineate your responsibilities within a relationship, which clarifies roles and expectations.

Considering how important they are for interpersonal relationships, could we not make the same argument about the importance of setting boundaries with yourself?

After all, you are in a relationship with yourself. You think about yourself and talk to yourself. You criticize yourself for shortcomings and, hopefully, give yourself some credit for a job well done. Establishing healthy boundaries with yourself will help you stay within your sphere of control and prioritize what matters most.

Establishing Healthy Boundaries With Yourself

Here are five tips to help you establish healthy boundaries with yourself.

1. Be honest with yourself.

Behind every fancy purchase is a desire for status and recognition. You secretly want to be noticed for wearing a new watch or carrying a designer purse. The reality is that you are not being recognized. The shiny object is being noticed as people imagine buying it for themselves. The same can be said about other pursuits, such as accumulating wealth, prestige, and power. We often want to be recognized for these achievements.

Before taking action toward any endeavor, such as making an expensive purchase or pursuing a job promotion, ask yourself, “Who am I doing this for?”

If a pursuit will truly improve the quality of your life, then go for it. However, if you are pursuing something with the hopes of garnering attention, then you need to say no to yourself.

2. Embrace your worth.

Saying no becomes easier when you detach your worth from material possessions and professional identities. Making more money does not make you more worthy than someone living paycheck to paycheck. Nor does buying a larger home, having an alphabet soup of credentials next to your name, or climbing the corporate ladder.

Remember that your worth is an inherent and undeniable part of who you are. It is derived from your humanity, which we all have in common.

3. Honor your limits.

You can’t be everything to everyone. Trying to please everyone makes you vulnerable to spreading yourself too thin. The truth is, you have a finite amount of energy and time. It is important to be judicious with your resources.

The importance of honoring your limits is highlighted by the Greek mythological figure of Icarus who fell into the sea after making the mistake of flying too close to the sun with feathers held together by beeswax. The story is a reminder that pushing yourself too hard for too long ultimately comes at a cost.

4. Stop comparing yourself to others.

People will engage in behaviors that trigger you. They might make purchases or achieve goals that elicit feelings of envy. It might be tempting to enter an undeclared competition with the Joneses. This approach does not work because there is always someone out there who has more of what you covet.

Stop comparing yourself to others. What someone is doing with their life has no bearing on you. Focus on living an intentional life that is congruent with your values and goals.

5. Be fair to yourself.

You are likely your worst critic. You secretly say things to yourself that you would never have the heart to tell another human being.

Remember to have realistic expectations of yourself. When you set goals, consider whether you have set the bar at a reasonable level. If the goal is lofty and unrealistic, then you have to say no and calibrate your expectations.

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