One of the most common issues we deal with in therapy is how to set boundaries. More specifically, how to prevent other people from crossing the boundaries of your privacy or your red lines, and how to prevent them from interfering in your life when it is absolutely no business of theirs to do so.
Surely you have already been subject to your friends or the proverbial mother-in-law meddling in your life and suggesting what you should do and how. Well, sometimes those "suggestions" seem more like orders which you find difficult to counter, even though you absolutely disagree with them. Why is it so? Most likely because you haven't been taught how to set proper boundaries, or limits if you wish. Perhaps you have no idea what boundaries are. There are certain lines that shouldn't be crossed in life, especially when they concern the personal, private life, and the choices of individuals that do no harm to anyone. Though admittedly, your choices might have a negative impact on other people's personal agenda. But then again, that's their problem, not yours, no matter how hard they try to guilt-trip you into believing you're a horrible person when you refuse to follow their plans.
The first thing you need to learn in the area of boundary-setting is how to say "no". Such a simple word that many 2-year-olds master without any problems at all, yet so many adults struggle with. Have you ever practiced saying no in front of the mirror? Try it, as it might give you a clue as to how decisive and determined you appear when telling someone you won't do something you dislike. Once you master saying no, you can move on to setting boundaries in other areas of your life that you deem relevant. There is one thing you should be aware, though. Namely, if you set boundaries and then let people cross them as they please, your credibility will be undermined, and nobody will take your limits seriously. Therefore, start setting boundaries in those areas where opposition to them is less likely or, at least, is less likely to lead to a conflict. Practice makes perfect. You need to understand that people will be confused with your decisive stance if you had never stood up for yourself and for what you believe is important. They might even feel offended or upset, but that's for them to deal with.
Of course, even those who have lots of experience in setting and sticking to the boundaries, waver from time to time. However, that doesn't prevent them from continuing to uphold the red lines, even though on occasion someone manages to cross them briefly. What matters is that you remain firm and unapologetic when defending what you believe is important to you. If you don't like your friends dictating your life choices, tell them so, politely. If you don't want your mother to raise your children in a way that is not in line with your values and beliefs, tell her to stop. If your boss is pestering you, stop him. There are always ways to prevent and stop unwanted behaviour. If your colleagues are gossiping about you, let them know you're aware of it and take action when you consider they have gone too far.
So many things in life happen because we keep quiet, suffer in silence and wait for things to pass or change. They rarely do! Things change when we make the change. Speak up and don't feel bad or guilty about it. Remember, no means no. However, don't take the boundary-setting exercise as a carte blanche to be rude, selfish, aggressive and the like. It's all about finding proper balance. Whenever in doubt, trust your gut feeling. It is rarely wrong.
“If we want to change the world, we need to talk about the elephant in the room. That is why I love real people who say what they mean and mean what they say. No fluff, no lies and no pretence.”