Creating healthy boundaries can be an imperative relationship skill for many people with disabilities. Often disability results in the need to establish unconventional or obligatory relationships such as those with caregivers, strangers offering help, and even family and friends who may sometimes cross the border into a caregiver role. In order to assert yourself and ensure your needs are being met, while still living a high quality of life and having meaningful relationships, learning to set boundaries should not be an intimidating task but rather a freeing one, allowing you to live as independently as possible. Check out some tips below that can help individuals facing a disability set healthy boundaries in their relationships.
Listen to yourself first
Get in tune with how you are feeling in different situations. Are you running into an accessibility issue on a day to day basis that makes you feel frustrated? Do you have a coworker or friend who is being pushy and making you feel like your voice is not being heard? Do you feel uncomfortable around the assistance your aide or caregiver is providing? Is your spouse or loved one starting to take on more of a caregiver role than you are comfortable with? If you have repeatedly experienced a negative emotion, resentment, fear, anxiety, frustration, that is probably a good sign that it’s time to set a boundary to make sure your voice is being heard.
Check your communication
Communicating your needs in a clear, assertive manner can remove any uncertainty between you and the other party. Make sure you speak with a clear and strong tone of voice. Many of us with disabilities have experienced a time when people with good intentions take it too far and begin helping us in ways that are not all that helpful or that cause more intrusion or frustration than help. That’s a red flag that it’s time to say something. Starting the conversation by acknowledging the individual’s good intentions can get things off on the right foot and keep the discussion positive. Make sure you clearly state what is working for you and what you would prefer to have help with instead. Sometimes people are so eager to help, they just don’t know how. Don’t feel bad for asking for what you need and saving both parties embarrassment later on.
Surround Yourself with a Supportive Environment
Setting boundaries takes practice and some people may be more receptive to your boundaries than others. It is important that others respect your right to set boundaries and that the boundaries you are setting are in your best interest. No one knows our needs better than ourselves. Sometimes it can be frustrating when our disabilities are mistaken for not being capable of making our own decisions or knowing what’s best for ourselves. If you come across individuals in your life who cannot respect your boundaries, reach out to your friends and family for support. Consider surrounding yourself with individuals who are there to help nurture your independence and not hinder it.
What other tips do you have to help people with disabilities set positive boundaries? Share tips or your own story in the comments!