3 Steps for Setting Boundaries and Build Self-esteem

Do you have hard time saying no and setting boundaries, so you keep agreeing to do things you really don’t want to do? Afterwards you feel emotionally drained and physically tired? Do you tolerate disrespectful behavior, comments and pushy people? Do you have a hard time standing up for yourself? If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, you really need to start setting boundaries.

Setting boundaries is crucial for respecting yourself. When you develop self-respect, you’ll be on your way to building self-esteem.

Setting boundaries is particularly difficult to black women. Black women are used to wearing their ‘Superwoman masks’ all the time.  That means you feel the need to be everything to everyone. In other words, you think you have to be there for everyone. This is a part of the ‘Superwoman role’.

Consequences of playing this role are numerous: some black women may suffer in silence and develop conditions, such as depression or other somatic diseases; while some black women may become what others perceive as an Angry Black Woman. You already know who is hiding behind the Mad Black Woman.

So, in order to become the Empowered Black Woman you have to learn how to set personal boundaries. This will not only boost your self-confidence, but also make you feel energetic and more in control of your life.

Here is a 3-step plan for setting your boundaries:

Step 1: Become aware of your personal boundaries

The first step on this journey is to find out where your personal boundaries are. Answering the following questions may help you:

  • What behaviors of others are no longer acceptable for me? Write down behaviors that you won’t tolerate any more. For example: criticizing me, take their anger out on me, call me names, humiliating me, invade my personal space, expect I’m always available to them, etc.
  • How will l stand up for myself? Write down things that you will confidently ask of others. For example you may ask for a raise, help with chores, more information before making the decision, quite time for yourself, more privacy, etc.
  • How will I protect my time and energy? Write down what’ll you do to get more time and energy. For example: turning off your phone from ringing, taking your time returning calls or emails, change your mind, cancel a commitment when you’re not feeling well, say no to friends and family when you feel exhausted, etc.

 Step 2: Setting your boundaries

Now that you’ve become aware of your personal boundaries, it’s time to start setting them. Just convey your boundaries with a graceful, neutral tone. This may feel intimidating at first, but very soon you’ll start noticing you’re gaining personal power back. Setting boundaries will become natural to you.

You don’t have to explain or justify to anyone. Just make your statement in a simple and direct language when setting boundaries. If a person across from you is persistent in their intentions, repeat your statement until it reaches the person you’re talking to.

These guidelines for setting boundaries in different life situations may help you:

  • To set a boundary with an angry person, you may want to say something like this: “Please stop yelling at me. We can have a calm conversation. If you continue yelling, I’ll have to leave the room.”
  • To set a boundary with someone who is disrespectful, critical or rude, say something like this: “It’s not okay with me that you are talking to me in this way. I’m asking you to stop, please stop.”
  • To set a boundary when making a decision, say something like this: “I’ll have to sleep on it. I’ll let you know about my decision in two days. ”
  • To say no to extra commitments, say something like this: “Although this organization (or you) is very important to me, I need to decline your request for (whatever they asked you to do).”
  • To set a boundary when you are changing your mind, say something like this: “I know I agreed to do this or that, but after reviewing my schedule I now realize that I don’t have enough time to give it my best attention.”
  • To set the boundary with personal phone calls, say something like this: “I am unavailable for talking with you right now, but I will call you back later”. Or just simply say: “Sorry I can’t talk right now. I will call you later.”

These are some examples of how to set your boundaries. Use them. Adapt them to your own needs.

 Step 3: Stop others pulling you in their personal dramas

This step is crucial for black women, especially those living with disrespectful partners or having disrespectful friends and family.

If someone’s speaking or treating you disrespectfully, stop believing in their statements. Try not to react or become defensive. Don’t participate in an argument with that person.

Instead, take the pause and distant yourself, at least mentally. Answer the following questions: How much of this is true about me? How much of this is about the other person? What do I need to do (if anything) to regain my personal power or stand up for myself?

If the other person is really angry or maybe even violent, you need to stop the conversation immediately and leave. Say something like this: “I can see you’re very upset right now. I understand your distress. Let’s continue this conversation later when you feel calmer.”

Hopefully these 3 steps will help in setting your boundaries, building self-respect and self-esteem.

Backup your boundaries with the action and stay strong. Don’t deviate, because if you do, you invite people to ignore your needs. If you want others to respect you, your needs, wishes, and desires you must first respect yourself. You’ll be one step closer to self-respect when you set and stick to your boundaries.

 Please share in the comments: Were you successful in setting boundaries? On what boundaries did you work on? Did you find any of the steps challenging? In what way?