If you're like me, you didn’t learn how to set appropriate boundaries as a kid. I knew that standing up for myself at home rarely went well, so honing my assertiveness skills wasn’t even on my radar. It wasn’t necessary. It was more necessary to wear a mask, people-please, bury my needs, and literally and figuratively "walk it off". So, when I started to work on setting boundaries in my life as an adult, I fumbled around a bit.
I was helped by learning and practicing a DBT skill for interpersonal effectiveness called the FAST skill. It’s an acronym that stands for:
Fair: set boundaries that are fair. For us recovering people pleasers, it’s important to remember to set boundaries that are fair for ourselves. Of course, there is compromise, but its ok to take up space. If we aren't fair to ourselves and take care of ourselves and stand up for ourselves, we get resentful...and that's not a good look on anybody!
(No) Apologies: Don't apologize for your needs and feelings and boundaries. First, it’s not necessary. Second, it diminishes your effectiveness in setting a boundary because it sounds less confident. Third, it reinforces core shame and low self-worth when you constantly apologize for yourself.
Stick to values: Don't use boundaries to avoid or manipulate. Don't people please to the point that you lose your values and sense of self. Let your values guide your boundary setting.
Tell the truth: when setting boundaries, don't lie to protect someone's feelings or to avoid being direct (i.e. Don't say "I can’t go to your party because I'm sick" when the truth is that you just don't want to go or you double-booked yourself). Don't exaggerate the truth to justify a boundary or need. Don't minimize needs or feelings to avoid speaking up for yourself.
This stuff is tricky. Give it a try. You won’t be perfect at first, but you're worth practicing. If you need more help setting boundaries, you can practice the FAST skill by getting in touch with us!