Setting boundaries and saying “no” more often are vital for your mental health, according to a licensed therapist In The Know spoke with.
Krystal Jackson is a therapist and mental health consultant with over 10 years of experience helping people set boundaries and find relief from mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Jackon’s argument is that every person has the ability to set clear boundaries for themselves, but society gets in the way.
“You think about toddlers, they’re really good at saying yes or no,” she explains. “We have this already within us. But what happens is, over time, whether [it’s] how we are reared or what society at large is telling us, it gives us those messages that basically say, ‘you shouldn’t trust yourself to make good decisions.'”
Because of this, it’s natural that a lot of people experience anxiety when it comes to setting boundaries. But, Jackson points out, it’s super important that we let people know what we’re comfortable with and what we’re not comfortable with.
“What is important is that we know when we don’t set a boundary — what that feels like,” she says. “That’s very clear. We may feel, like, icky. We don’t feel like we treated ourselves well.”
Take this feeling into consideration, and Jackson advises building a mental script to practice what to say next time to prevent the icky feeling from coming up again.
“There are three reasons why people may feel guilt about establishing boundaries,” Jackson adds.
1. You’ve been taught to prioritize others’ needs before your own.
“Maybe they established a boundary and people said, ‘No, I don’t really like that. It doesn’t work for me,'” Jackson says. “Then they move the line [and] they kind of fall back on that.”
2. You’re concerned with how you’ll be perceived.
“We want to feel like we are welcome, people understand us,” Jackson says. “We want to feel like people are OK with us.”
3. You don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
“If us establishing a boundary is going to cause someone else harm — even if that boundary is healthy for us — because we have to prioritize other people’s needs, we’re more likely to give into it because we don’t want to have to deal with what happens when people feel hurt,” Jackson says.
How do you overcome these three obstacles?
“We have to identify how setting that boundary is beneficial to us and our needs,” Jackson explains. “I am trusting myself to make good decisions for myself, to communicate what my needs are and to know that I can handle whatever conflict or challenge comes up with it.”
Finally, the most important step in setting boundaries, according to Jackson, is honoring those boundaries ourselves.
Some things to keep in mind are “knowing that I am honoring myself, and I can make it through the discomfort that comes with that initial setting as long as I continue to practice it,” she says. “You can trust yourself to make good decisions, and by exercising that trust, then people will really gravitate towards you and see how you empower yourself.”
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