Setting boundaries is an important skill for every introvert to have.
Boundaries play a key role in helping us protect and preserve our energy. They also help prevent other people and situations from taking too much from us.
But setting and enforcing boundaries can take some practice.
Today, we’re going to look at why boundaries are important, how to set them, and how to enforce them.
The importance of boundaries for introverts
For introverts, setting boundaries can prove to be pretty vital to maintaining a happy, healthy life and protecting our downtime.
In a world designed for extroverts, some may expect introverts to “get over” their introverted tendencies and give their time and energy to anyone who needs it and asks.
And introverts may often feel pressure to conform to the extroverted expectations that are often considered “normal” by most of society.
But the reality is introvert don’t have to conform. In fact, it’s in our best interest if we don’t.
Setting and enforcing boundaries is one of the best ways to prevent extroverted expectations from being forced on or expected of you.
This will allow you to recharge effectively, give your energy purposefully, and be able to be your best on a day-to-day basis.
How to set boundaries
Evaluate what drains your energy
Every introvert’s needs are going to be a little bit different, so the first step is looking inward. What current activities or practices do you find particularly draining?
Are you finding that having a social activity each weekend day leaves you totally wiped out come Monday?
Do you often stay late at work every day and find yourself perpetually fried (even if you love your job)?
Do you find that people keep interrupting your day with questions and requests that keep you from getting your work done?
Make a list of anything and everything that’s taking more of your energy that you’d like.
Devise solutions to protect your energy
Now that you have your list, move through them one at a time and come up with potential boundaries to mitigate the problem.
If you find you’re over socializing, consider a social tracking system to keep yourself from becoming socially overextended.
If you’re staying late at work, make it a point to start leaving on time. There will always be more work to do. You’ll tackle it better if you give yourself time to rest and recharge.
And if people keep asking you for non-essential things while you’re working, make it known that you’re unavailable unless there’s an emergency.
The solutions and boundaries will vary depending on your own unique needs. Don’t feel like you have to solve every problem at once.
Move through your list one at a time, creating and implementing the boundaries as you go.
Be clear and direct to others about what your boundaries are
When you start setting new boundaries, it’s likely going to take the people in your life some time to get used to them.
They have to change their expectations of you and alter their own behavior accordingly.
This is another reason why it’s a good idea to add new boundaries one at a time. It gives you time to get used to enforcing the boundary, while others can get used to respecting it.
As a result, it’s important to be clear and direct about what your new boundaries are.
For instance, if your boss or coworkers have come to expect you to work late every day, let them know that won’t be happening anymore.
It can be as simple as saying, “Starting today, I’m going to be making every effort to leave on time. I’m starting to feel a little burnt out, and I think I’ll be more effective if I stick to my hours.”
As you can see, it’s possible to be clear and direct without being rude, harsh, or obnoxious.
Ultimately, the phrasing us entirely up to you, just make sure there’s no room for misinterpretation.
How to enforce boundaries
Get used to “No”
This is especially true in the early days of a new boundary.
It will take time for people to get used to your restrictions. Because of this, it’s particularly important that you stick to and enforce your boundaries early on.
At this point, you’re working to change people’s expectations. Once they get used to your new boundary and no longer expect you to go beyond it, they will not ask to cross that boundary as much.
And when they do ask you, it will likely be out of a more urgent need, and it will be known and established that it’s a one-time thing.
If you don’t take your boundary seriously and protect your time, no one else will either.
So if you’re coworker asks you to stay late for something that isn’t urgent, or isn’t really your responsibility, say no.
For tips on saying no, check out this post.
Just because you’re saying no, doesn’t mean you can’t be helpful. In addition to saying no, offer up alternatives that you will be willing to do.
So, when your coworker asks you to stay late to help them, you can say, “I really need to get home, but I can help you first thing tomorrow morning.”
Or, if a friend tries to make plans with you on a day you’ve decided to protect as a recharge day, you can say, “I can’t then but how about [insert better day here]?”
This way, you’re both enforcing your boundary, but leaving the door open to help and socialize when you have the available energy to do so.
Know when to be flexible (but do so sparingly)
Sometimes, it’s important to flex a boundary.
Friends truly needs you. A work crisis happens. Once-in-a-lifetime events pop up.
Ideally, the fact that you’ve had boundaries in place will mean that you’ll have a little extra energy to get your through these flexible periods when you need to.
But it’s also important only to do so when it’s absolutely essential, to do so sparingly, and (if there’s any doubt) to let it be known that this is a special circumstance and not a new normal.
It’s also best to avoid flexing that boundary in the first 21-30 days of a new boundary. Experts say it takes 21 days to form a habit, so until your new boundary is a habit for you and anyone else involved, do your best to avoid making exceptions.
Let go of guilt
It can be so easy to feel guilty–especially in the beginning. You may feel like you’re letting people down or being selfish.
I’ve said it before on this blog, and I will never get tired of repeating it:
It’s never selfish to protect your energy. This is what it means for an introvert to take care of themselves. Any boundary that protects your recharge time and energy isn’t selfish; it’s a necessity.
Anyone in your life who cares about you should understand and respect that. And if they don’t, then you really shouldn’t feel guilty. Instead, you might want to question whether they should really be in your life or get your time or energy at all.
Looking for more in-depth tips on how to create and implement boundaries?
If you want to dig a little deeper into this topic, check out the Introvert Life Guide!
This guide was designed to help you build the introvert life of your dreams. And it’s full of plenty of tips and tricks to help you create, implement, and enforce any boundaries you need to have a happy introvert life.
It will also help you embrace your introverted nature and build a life to help you thrive!
For more introvert life tips, check out the other introvert posts!
Sound off: What boundaries have you put in place? What helps you set and enforce them? Tell us about it in the comments!