Raise your standards and the universe will meet you there. – Unknown

In our daily lives, we encounter a variety of relationships as we go about our business. Some relationships are as casual as the cashier handing over your morning coffee.

Next, there are friends, neighbors and co-workers – relationships that can also impact how our day unfolds.

Close relationships with family and friends carry far greater emotional weight, and have potential to be our greatest support or our biggest headache.

By maintaining healthy interpersonal boundaries, we are able to give and receive the best that each individual has to offer. Setting boundaries is the practice of openly communicating and asserting our personal values as a means to preserve, protect and honor them.

Let’s consider some basic strategies for boundary setting.

Prioritizing self-care is essential

Making time for ourselves in the midst of a busy schedule says to the world “I am worth it.” We communicate how we value ourselves by how we treat ourselves.

Learn to say no

Many folks describe themselves as “pleasers.” Giving to others and serving one’s family and community is admirable and valuable. However, if altruism comes at a cost to our own wellness, we short-change ourselves and ultimately those around us.

Remember what the flight attendants say: “Put on your oxygen mask before trying to assist others.” This advice is just as sound on the ground as in the air.

Clear boundaries set the tone

When we set our own clear and healthy boundaries, we let others know how we want to be treated, what we value and what we do not want.

Clear communication about personal boundaries facilitates the growth of relationships and deepens understanding between individuals.

Have you ever watched a mother and toddler in the park? Ideally, when healthy attachment and boundaries are in place, the child can freely explore the environment with a degree of independence. If the child becomes frightened or hurt she can quickly return to the parent for comfort and reassurance.

It is the child’s knowledge that she is loved and has a safe “home base” that allows her to bravely explore her surroundings.

This same dynamic is at work in our adult relationships. When we are truly respected, valued and loved we are able to become our best selves, sharing our talents with our loved ones and with the world.

Healthy boundaries are key to making that a reality.

Maria Malcolm, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and associate with Psychological & Counseling Associates of the Lowcountry, LLC in Bluffton.