photo: Corbis

Heck, if it were up to our families we’d be at our mom’s beckon call and have every tio, tia, and cousin at every family function. It’s easy to get guilted into doing more for them than you should. The tricky part is speaking up and for many of us saying no is just too difficult. But breathe easy, it’s possible.

“Family has always had an important role in the Latino culture; they are part of the core values of our culture,” says psychologist Dr. Isaura Gonzalez. Family plays an integral role in who we become which is why it’s so hard for many of us to distinguish that fine line between giving and being taken advantage of. But in order to become an emotionally healthy adult, you need to engage in emotionally healthy relationships and the only way to do that is to set boundaries.

Boundary building doesn’t have to be a foreign concept. We run our lives constantly putting our family’s needs before our own because this is how a lot of us were raised. How many times have you heard about a young woman pursuing a career just because that’s what was expected of her? Or taking too much time off from school to take care of a sick relative? How about having a Catholic wedding just to please her religious mom? This happens all too often so here are some tips on how you can set boundaries with your own family.

It’s okay to be selfish: “Boundaries sometimes are seen as selfishness,” Gonzalez says. “Our culture is about serving, so in essence it comes across as if were are not being true to our culture by setting boundaries.” But you can’t really be there for your family in the way that you should, until you learn to care for yourself first. “We will struggle with feelings of selfishness by setting those boundaries and having self-care but we are not being selfish. In the end, by setting healthy boundaries we are not only taking care of ourselves but those around us.”

Understand the paradigm: “Boundaries isn’t really about putting our foot down, it’s about understanding the paradigm that exists particularly for women and our roles within our families,” Gonzalez says. “We are expected to be submissive at home yet assertive and go-getters in the workforce; often referred to as Marianismo.” It’s tough because many times we find ourselves torn between those two roles. But understanding the root of it makes it easier to know how and when to set boundaries.

Don’t neglect your needs: “Setting those healthy boundaries sometimes comes from simply giving ourselves permission to take care of ourselves. Latinas are great caretakers except when it comes to taking care of ourselves,” Gonzalez says. “This winds up being costly as we neglect our physical and psychological needs and there’s a tremendous guilt surrounding the expression of our needs.”

Know your limits: It’s impossible to set healthy boundaries if you’re unaware of your own limits. Keep in mind everyone is different. It’s about figuring out what makes you comfortable and what stresses you out. If something is too difficult for you to tolerate, than that’s a signal that you need to speak up.

Speak up: You can’t expect your family to know what your limitations are if you don’t directly express them. “Learn to be assertive and speak up. Not in a nasty or hostile way but in a firm assertive way,” Gonzalez suggests. If your mother-in-law wants you to have an open door policy at your apartment that you’re not comfortable with, let her know. Express that you’d prefer she’d call and set up a time to go over rather than just showing up to your place. Set limits that are firm but still loving.

How do you keep it all balanced? Share it with us: