Here are some tips for setting healthy boundaries, modified from the book, Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin, by Anne Katherine:
When you identify the need to set a boundary, do it clearly, preferably without anger, and in as few words as possible. Do not justify, apologize for, or rationalize the boundary you are setting. Do not argue! Just set the boundary calmly, firmly, clearly, and respectfully.
You can’t set a boundary and take care of someone else’s feelings at the same time. You are not responsible for the other person’s reaction to the boundary you are setting. You are only responsible for communicating the boundary in a respectful manner. If others get upset with you, that is their problem. If they no longer want your friendship, then you are probably better off without them. You do not need “friends” who disrespect your boundaries.
At first, you will probably feel selfish, guilty, or embarrassed when you set a boundary. Do it anyway, and tell yourself you have a right to take care of yourself. Setting boundaries takes practice and determination. Don’t let anxiety or low self-esteem prevent you from taking care of yourself.
When you feel anger or resentment, or find yourself whining or complaining, you probably need to set a boundary. Listen to yourself, then determine what you need to do or say. Then communicate your boundary assertively. When you are confident you can set healthy boundaries with others, you will have less need to put up walls.
When you set boundaries, you might be tested, especially by those accustomed to controlling you, abusing you, or manipulating you. Plan on it, expect it, but be firm. Remember, your behavior must match the boundaries you are setting. You can not establish a clear boundary successfully if you send a mixed message by apologizing for doing so. Be firm, clear, and respectful.
Most people are willing to respect your boundaries, but some are not. Be prepared to be firm about your boundaries when they are not being respected. If necessary, put up a wall by ending the relationship. In extreme cases, you might have to involve the police or judicial system by sending a no-contact letter or obtaining a restraining order.
Learning to set healthy boundaries takes time. It is a process. You will set boundaries when you are ready. It’s your growth in your own time frame, not what someone else tells you. Let your counselor or support group help you with pace and process.
Develop a support system of people who respect your right to set boundaries. Eliminate toxic persons from your life – those who want to manipulate you, abuse you, and control you.
Setting healthy boundaries allows your true self to emerge – and what an exciting journey that is!