How to Set Healthy Boundaries as an HSP
Make good boundaries your goal. They are your right, your responsibility, your greatest source of dignity.
-Elaine N. Aron
The concept of having choices is important for our well-being. If we feel like we don’t have choices, we can feel stuck or resentful. Recognize that every day you have a lot of choices. You can choose who to give your energy to and how to take care of your needs. You can choose what you do with your time and what you focus on. You can choose to take a walk, go out in nature, take a bubble bath, eat healthy, and surround yourself with people that lift you higher. Ultimately, you are in control of your choices.
Knowing you have a choice opens up doors of possibilities. Learning how to choose what is right for you is part of this process. You can build a life that works for you.
Every time you say yes to something you don’t want, you are saying no to yourself. Over time, this will impact every part of you and you will be at risk of developing resentment and disconnection, and you will likely get burnt out.
Here are some things to remember when thinking about boundaries:
It is not my job to fix others.
It is okay if others get angry.
It is okay to say no
It is not my job to take responsibility for others
I don’t have to anticipate the needs of others.
It is my job to make me happy.
Nobody has to agree with me.
I have a right to my own feelings.
I am enough
The process of setting boundaries takes time, and it will not always be comfortable. As HSPs, this process can seem counterintuitive to who we are. After all, we want to help others. Like with so many of our strengths, they cannot remain our strengths if we don’t also set boundaries that allow us to remain empowered and be our best selves.
Do you have a hard time saying no?
A lot of HSPs talk about how hard it is to say no. We worry about disappointing someone and feel guilty if we say no. While that makes sense, given how caring we are, the philosophy has some holes. Resentment grows out of not being able to say no. Every single person I have ever seen who has a full resentment tank struggles with saying no.
No is a complete sentence.
I like to guide HSPs to listen to their body somatically because, if we listen, our bodies often give us the answers before our cognitive awareness. How do we know when to say yes or no? What is your body telling you? If you imagine saying no to something, does it feel like a relief? If you imagine saying yes, does it give you a good feeling or a bad feeling? This is where we can use our advanced insula and highly aware and conscious ability to listen to our internal indicators. When you get an icky feeling about saying yes, it might indicate you want to say no.
Here are some examples of ways it might be easier for you to say no:
That’s not going to work for me.
I am overcommitted so I won’t be able to do that.
I’m busy and can’t.
I’m not the right person to do that.
I can’t help this time.
I’m not available.
I wish I could, but I can’t.
No, thank you.
That sounds fun, but I won’t be able to this time.
Thank you for thinking of me, but I can’t.
With practice, it gets easier saying no. It is also more kind to say no then to get resentful for saying yes. Over time you start to feel the rewards of preserving your precious energy, so it motivates you to continue.
Read more from the book, The Empowered Highly Sensitive Person
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~Julie Bjelland is a psychotherapist, global HSP consultant, and leader in the field of high sensitivity and has helped thousands of highly sensitive people around the world. As an HSP herself, Julie understands what it is like to live with high sensitivity and strong emotions. Julie teaches an online course for HSPs and is the author of several books. www.juliebjelland.com.