Years ago my boundaries were shaky. I often found myself feeling horribly guilty by asserting myself and my needs, especially when it seemed to affect others. It took a while for me to feel comfortable saying ‘No’ and to let go of my need to do 110%, because I could, and to be so concerned with what others thought.
One of the key issues we address in my coaching sessions with highly sensing people is boundaries. Boundaries are important for everyone, but they are especially crucial for highly sensitive people (HSPs) who tend to absorb and feel the emotions of others deeply and find it hard to say no.
What are boundaries?
Boundaries are the limits that we set for ourselves in relationships and interactions with others. They define what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior toward and around us. Boundaries can be physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. They can also be limits we set for ourselves (like not taking on that extra project), to keep us centered and maintain enough bandwidth to avoid overwhelm.
Why is this important for highly sensitive people?
Highly sensing people are wired differently from the rest of the population. We have more active nervous systems and are more likely to absorb the emotions of others. This can be a great strength, but it can also be a challenge if we don’t have healthy boundaries in place. Without boundaries, HSPs can easily become overwhelmed and exhausted by the emotions and needs of others and by trying to do and be it all. This can lead to burnout, anxiety, and depression.
Establishing…and maintaining, boundaries can be challenging for HSPs because they often prioritize the needs of others over their own. Here are some steps that can help to establish and maintain healthy boundaries:Identify your boundaries: This involves taking the time to reflect on what you need to feel safe, respected, and comfortable in your relationships and interactions with others. Then these needs have to be honored, seen as just as important as everyone else’s.
1. Identify your boundaries: This involves taking the time to reflect on what you need to feel safe, respected, and comfortable in your relationships and interactions with others. Then these needs have to be honored, seen as just as important as everyone else’s.
2. Communicate: Once you have identified your boundaries, the next step is to communicate them clearly and assertively to others. This can be challenging, especially if you are used to putting others’ needs before your own. Remember that setting boundaries is not selfish, it is an act of self-care and allows you to be who you want to be, for yourself and for others.
3. Be consistent: It’s important to be consistent in enforcing your boundaries. This means saying no when someone crosses a boundary, even if it feels uncomfortable. It’s also important to be consistent in following through with consequences if someone repeatedly violates your boundaries. This is a tough-love idea, and sometimes it feels toughest on ourselves, at least at first.
4. See boundaries as self-care: It’s important to prioritize your own needs and take the time to recharge and refuel when necessary, letting go of the need to do everything for everyone. This can be very challenging for sensitives, and seeking support from friends or a coach can help.
5. Be open to adjusting and refining: Boundaries are not set in stone. As you grow and change, they may need to be adjusted to reflect your evolving needs. As you get used to honoring yourself, you may begin to assert even more!
6. Being uncomfortable: Be aware that when you set a new boundary, there may be some backlash. If others are used to you doing for them or doing things in a certain way, by changing that, you’re inherently changing their experience as well. Remember that it’s necessary to set these boundaries, not a mean, rude or uncaring choice. And it can take practicing being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
As you embark on this journey, remember this favorite quote of mine about boundaries: “ ‘No’ is a complete sentence.” If you would like some guidance around setting and maintaining boundaries, let’s talk!