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Most of us have trouble setting boundaries.  We want to be helpful and generous toward others with both our time and our resources.  Yet, sometimes meeting the needs of others can become too much and can make us miserable.  That is why it is so important to learn how to set boundaries with other people.

Setting boundaries is critical for our personal happiness.  That is because, on occasion, we all have to deal with difficult people who unnecessarily use up our time and resources.  Or they sap our emotional energy.  And if you don’t help them or march to the beat of their drum, they throw temper tantrums or pout.  Or they accuse you of being a bad or unhelpful person.  You have to set boundaries with people like that, or they will exhaust you.

Admittedly, setting boundaries with difficult people is challenging.  But it is possible.  Below are some ways to do exactly that so you can be happy.

Put Your Own Needs First

I love helping others.  I enjoy mentoring, encouraging and serving other people.  But over the years, at times, I have erred on the side of helping others too much.  And I’ve often put my own needs on the back burner.  Looking back, I will tell you that that was a mistake.

When you die, you aren’t going to say to yourself, “Wow.  I’m so glad that I made all those sacrifices that I had no desire to make so that Jim/Sue could be happy.”  Not one of us is a saint or a martyr.  We are human beings, and we need to do what is necessary to make ourselves happy during our time on this earth.  And that means putting our own needs first.

Now, I’ll tell you that if you set your boundaries and put your own needs first, some folks will gripe and moan.  For example, let’s say that your elderly parents live across the country.  You’d like to go visit them, but your spouse objects.  Your husband wants you to stay home to help out with the kids and cook.  Set your boundaries.  Firmly tell your spouse, “No.  I love you, but I am going to visit my parents.”  Put yourself and your needs first.  Go visit your parents for a couple of weeks and let your spouse spend that time growing up a bit.

If you don’t set your boundaries and put yourself first, you’ll spend your life needlessly sacrificing for the desires of other people.  And that is no way to live your life.

Don’t Worry About Being Liked

There are two types of people with whom you will interact in this world.  There are the people who will like you because of your personality and who enjoy spending time with you.  They don’t need anything from you.  They simply like being in a relationship with you.

And then there are the people who will like you only if you march to the beat of their drum.  If you act in the way that they desire, and do the things that they want you to do, they will really like you!  And if you disagree with them or don’t accede to their wishes, they will turn on you.  Suddenly, they’ll inform you that you simply are not a likeable person.

For example, I have a friend whose adult son likes him only when my friend gives him money.  So, if my friend is being financially generous, his son communicates with him.  If my friend chooses not to give his son money, his son ignores him.  He doesn’t like his father simply because that’s his Dad.  His affection is conditioned on his father operating like an ATM.  We all know people who are burdened with children like that.

So, realize that your likeability often has nothing to do with you.  Very often, when people criticize you or don’t like you, it is because you aren’t doing what they’d like you to do.  Don’t bother to please those people.

Instead, set your boundaries, and give people like that a gentle, but very clear “No.”  And expect that in response, they will tell you that you are not a likeable person.  That is OK.  They are entitled to their opinion, and you are entitled to ignore it.

Love Yourself

The main reason why we struggle with setting boundaries is that we so desperately want to be needed and loved.  So, we go overboard in helping people so that we can feel necessary or important.  And if someone tells us that they don’t like us, we try to change ourselves so that they will like us.  The reason why we do such crazy things is that we lack self-esteem.

The best way to learn to set boundaries with others is this: Love yourself.  Look in the mirror and like who you are.  You are a wonderful person with great qualities.  You have a lot to offer the world.  Realize that your value as a human being is not decided by another person.  It doesn’t matter whether that person is your spouse, teacher, child or parent.  Your value is decided by God.  And God Loves You.

So, love yourself and set your boundaries with other people.  Don’t sacrifice for others so that they can be happy, while you are miserable.  And for heaven’s sake, don’t change your personality to suit the desires of another person.

You are perfect the way you are.  If you are talkative, continue to be the lovely, extroverted person that you are.  If you are reserved, sensitive and shy, stay that way.  The world needs more people like you!  Set your boundaries with others, and when someone tells you that you need to change, tell them in whatever terms suit you, “No!”

Setting boundaries with others is hard.  Of course, we want to be kind and helpful whenever possible.  And we want to be liked and have good relationships with others.  But we should never put ourselves in the position of being miserable so that others can be happy.  If we do that, we’ve done ourselves a great disservice.  So, set your boundaries.  Know your value.  And make yourself happy.


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