I’ve often heard people associate boundaries with being selfish. As if taking care of yourself automatically results in neglecting those around you. However, more often than not, this is quite an inaccurate assumption. The implementation of healthy boundaries simply allows you to value yourself as much as you do those around you. It helps you maximize your resources in a way that allows you to be a better mother, husband, friend, and colleague.

Assertiveness is a skill that allows you to put boundaries in place that ultimately enhances your health and happiness – Leisha Mostert

Another misconception is that assertiveness is equated with someone being forceful and mean. However, there is a big difference between assertiveness and aggression. Assertiveness requires individuals to explore what they are and are not comfortable with and to communicate this in a way that is clear and polite. Aggression involves demanding change from others whilst remaining completely unyielding yourself.

Individuals might also shy away from assertiveness for fear of rejection or disapproval from those around them. However, a consequence of this lack of communication is often a feeling of dissatisfaction within social interactions. Individuals are likely to find social interactions draining when their behaviour is inconsistent with their needs and emotions. Saying ‘yes’ to something you don’t have the capacity for can build resentment, lead to burnout and leave you feeling unfulfilled. This does not mean that compromise is ‘bad’, contrarily it is an important part of any relationship. This rather means that you are allowed to prioritize yourself and say no to situations that compromise your well-being. This is also not something that you need to earn or feel bad for; your needs and well-being are important and valid with no justification required. Assertiveness can be used to communicate these needs to those around you.

A useful way to communicate these needs is using “I”-statements. Instead of starting a conversation with “You never…” or “You always expect…”, it is useful starting the sentence with “I need…” or “I understand that you would like me to do this but unfortunately I am unable to commit to that right now”. By starting the sentence with “I” instead of “You”, defensiveness is frequently avoided which allows the other individual to be more receptive to your message.  

To conclude, we can all benefit from clear and healthy boundaries, specifically when we communicate these in a calm, clear, and consistent manner. The implementation of these boundaries allows us to act in accordance with our physical and mental state which guard against anxiety and frustration, thereby enhancing the quality of our relationships and our mental- and emotional well-being.

Remember, assertiveness allows you to value yourself as much as you do those around you.

written by Leisha Mostert, Registered counsellor