Many people struggle with setting boundaries and advocating for themselves. As a teen, I frequently relate to this struggle as well. I am often thrown into new situations or I am trying to figure out who I am whilst trying to reach everyone’s expectations. However, I am finding it more and more important to be able to draw the line and speak up for myself. Not being able to advocate and set boundaries can lead to unwanted outcomes in which a person may persistently intrude into your personal space and can result in negative outcomes such as manipulation, unhealthy relationships, and you eventually snapping at a person once they have taken things too far. In this blog, I will discuss a few things that may help you with setting boundaries and advocating for yourself.
1- Recognize the red flags that indicates a weak boundary. These red flags usually include constant negative emotions such as fear, shame, discomfort, and anxiety. Others may include feeling as if you are being manipulated or unappreciated. If you are constantly experiencing these feelings with another person, whether it is a friend, significant other, or even a family member, it is likely you have a weak boundary in your relationship with them.
2- Examine what may be the cause of these feelings. Although this may not always be clear to you, if you are able to find what specifically it is that someone is doing that invokes these feelings, it will be easier to advocate for yourself by bringing the issue up and trying to find a solution or simply saying no to certain situations. If the person still does not respect you, sometimes it is best to leave the relationship or practice maintaining distance from that person so you are less likely to have your boundaries violated.
3- Set the boundary and voice your feelings/bring up the issue. There are many ways to set/maintain a healthy boundary and advocate for yourself. Here is a list of some things you can do.
Practice saying no to tasks or situations you feel uncomfortable doing, are being pressured to do, or don’t have the time to partake. This is important to do even if the other person is unhappy with your decision because your wellbeing and needs should always come before pleasing others.
Be open to collaborate on solutions to an issue. This will help you advocate for yourself while maintaining a boundary as to what is and isn’t acceptable to you. Remind yourself it is important to do what benefits you and not others.
Refrain from over-apologizing. I know I am guilty of this, but a good alternative to implement is saying other words such as thank you. (eg “thank you for pointing that out” instead of “sorry” when you make a mistake, or “thank you for understanding” instead of saying sorry when bringing up an issue and resolving it, and “thank you for you patience and help” instead of saying sorry when asking for help or guidance.) This allows you to advocate for yourself when needed while setting a boundary at the same time.
Create times and areas in which you are able to have your personal space. An example might be your bedroom and spending a certain amount of time in it alone so you can recuperate and out-wind from life. Remember it is fine to ask to have alone time if needed. Your wellbeing comes before pleasing others.
Share what you are comfortable sharing. Remember that you never have to disclose something you don’t feel comfortable in sharing. If you are being pressured to share things you aren’t comfortable sharing frequently by another person, it may be worth considering to end the relationship with the friend, significant other.. etc. If that is not possible, it would be wise distance yourself from that person and avoid conversations with them that could lead to you being pressured to disclose information that you may not want.
Lastly, setting boundaries and advocating for yourself takes time and practice. It will not come overnight, but it will become easier the more frequently you do it. Doing so will help relieve some of your stress and depression. It can also boost you self-esteem and feeling of empowerment.
Thank you for reading this blog and I hope I was able to share some ideas that will benefit you!
Note: The Free Your Mind Mental Health Society is an independent youth-led organization. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency numbers immediately.