The saying goes, "good fences make good neighbours" – but what about the people that constantly make you feel down on yourself and bruise your confidence day in and day out? How are you meant to make peace and retain your self-respect?
It’s tiring, and not to mention frustrating, to constantly have to stand up for yourself, especially when in a work environment or at home with loved ones. However, one thing’s for sure, if you want to learn to stand up for yourself and build your confidence, you need to have boundaries. This will develop your emotional strength and build your self-esteem.
Benefits of setting healthy boundaries and sticking to them
Being clear about what you disapprove of gives you measurable borders – is it the friend who smokes in your car? The couple who use bad language in front of your children? The colleague who keeps dumping extra work on you, assuming you will do it? Creating good and healthy boundaries blocks others to take you for granted.
Also, standing up for yourself nurtures your self-esteem and build your confidence naturally – many people think they can get away with being offensive by saying things like, “Relax, I’m only joking”. But an insult is an insult, not a joke. Don’t allow others to take your dignity and mock you at your own expense. Insults have malicious, hurtful intent even when said by someone smiling or laughing. Sure, you can laugh along at a joke, but when it comes to insults, engaging them is a recipe for disaster.
Finally, respecting other people’s boundaries is an important piece to your puzzle too – sometimes people are so self-centred they are unaware that they are doing something to offend you, whereas others know exactly what they are doing and see you as a sensitive person. By setting a boundary in an assertive way, you will form strong, more mutually respectful relationships, both professionally and personally, and you will considerably raise your self-confidence.
How to stand up to the people who walk all over you
By showcasing boundaries with certain people in your life, you naturally set a bottom line, and display that you have self-respect and what is acceptable to you and what isn’t. With this assertive behaviour, you are stating what you feel are reasonable and permissible ways for others to behave around you and making it clear how you will respond if someone violates your boundaries. You need to learn to take care of yourself, and learn to be responsible for setting your own rules. Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to know how to even begin to set boundaries:
1. What are your values?
As mentioned, it’s important to focus on what matters to you most. For example, you may have trouble telling people “no" and end up having to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable and anxious, like attending a dinner with a group of friends who make you feel down, or following the suggestions of a colleague who insists you go about a project their way.
Instead, speak out. If you worry about sounding disrespectful, don’t worry – you can phrase things to sound assertive as well as respectful. A good example is, “Thank you for your opinion on how to go about this project, but I am not comfortable with doing what you suggest, I need to do what feels right for me.”
2. What are your priorities?
Your priorities are the foundation to your confidence and how you go about living your life. If you find yourself always having to pipe down in the office to give someone else the spotlight when you have something important to say, or feel undermined with family because someone is older, wiser, you can try voicing your concerns by saying, “I don’t appreciate you constantly interrupting me, please let me finish what I’m trying to say before you make your point."
3. What is a deal breaker for you?
Identifying deal breakers are crucial to help you stop feeling like people walk all over you and that you are a pushover. Sometimes the self-centred or non-aware assume they have control over you and your belongings because you haven’t told them off – this could even be your sister or your best friend. If you don’t set the boundary now, you will have a hard time building up the courage to do it later. A specific example would be to say, “Do not go through the texts on my phone, I feel violated when my privacy is disrespected."
4. What are you happy to be more flexible about?
We all have people in our lives whom we love but at the same time feel obligated or guilted into having to spend time with, talk to or see, like a grandparent or university friend who moved back into town. When it comes to flexibility, your assertive behaviour shouldn’t take a backseat. An example would be, “Unfortunately my schedule makes it tough to fit in a coffee, but I would be glad to chat on the phone for 15 minutes if you’d like?”
5. When do you feel manipulated?
When you feel manipulated, it can become a toxic web that you try to unweave yourself from. In romantic relationships for example, many people feel like one partner is more controlling than the other. If you feel like you’re not living your true self, try to voice your concern and speak out again. It could be something like, “I am not ok with you making constant jokes on my behalf in front of our friends and family. Your offensive remarks hurt my feelings.”
Try these practice tips to help you boost your confidence and get started on setting healthy boundaries at work, in relationships and in your social life. You deserve to live your happiest and healthiest self.