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“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” ~ Brené Brown
We all have boundaries.
But few of us have strong convictions about those boundaries.
When we compromise on the boundaries we have set for ourselves, it can be easy to feel exhausted or disappointed because we’ve been living out of integrity with our values.
For example, if you’ve told yourself you won’t respond to messages after 9 p.m. because you’re in the process of establishing a new bedtime routine, but the next day you begin messaging people back at 9:30 p.m., how likely is it that anyone else will take your boundary seriously and respect and honour it? Truth is, they won’t!
In the past, when I’ve communicated a clear boundary with someone and then subsequently gone ahead and broken it in front of that person, they haven’t respected or honoured that boundary going forward. Their behavior didn’t change until I upheld that standard for myself.
Boundaries Lead to Freedom
A lot of people think boundaries are restrictive and limiting. I think that’s false thinking.
It’s important to remember that boundaries are for us—we set them to protect, honour, and respect our time and energy from being hijacked by others. Clear and healthy boundaries allow us to proactively eliminate the demands from others that distract us from what truly matters. As a result, we’re not compromising our values or integrity in order to please other people or meet others’ expectations of how we should be living our lives.
As a coach, I have strict boundaries around my time. I am punctual to calls and meetings, and I also have clear communication boundaries if a client needs to reschedule or cancel a call. Similar principles apply to the time I allocate for calls with friends and family, allowing me to lock-in time in my calendar to be fully present and immersed in conversations without being distracted.
Remember: we are always control of our boundaries, and they’re not set in stone—we can change them over time as we change.
Different Types of Boundaries
There are different types of boundaries that apply to different areas of our lives:
1. Physical: Setting these boundaries helps to define your personal space, privacy, and body. They also protect your comfort level with sexual touch and activity. Do you prefer to give handshakes, a hug, or a kiss on the cheek? How do you feel about people in your home, public spaces, and shopping malls?
2. Mental: These boundaries apply to your thoughts, values, and opinions. Can you be easily persuaded or can you hold onto your opinions? What type of information do you allow yourself to consume online and offline? Do you watch the news or follow people who do not align with your values and beliefs?
3. Emotional: These distinguish separating your emotions from someone else’s. Setting healthy emotional boundaries prevents you from accepting advice or blaming others, as well as protecting you from feeling guilty for someone else’s negative feelings or problems.
4. Spiritual: These boundaries relate to your beliefs and experiences in a God or higher power.
If you’ve never gone through the process of setting boundaries for yourself, it can be quite difficult to do so for the first time. From my own experience, I found that at first, my boundaries were pretty vague. But the more awareness I brought to them, the clearer they become with time and practice, and I was better able to articulate and enforce them.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to take the time to clearly set boundaries for yourself, because being vague will cost you more in the long run. And not setting any boundaries will open you up to being bound by someone else’s boundaries for your life.
What are your Deal Breakers?
If you can’t clearly define and articulate your boundaries to yourself and others, other people will simply not know how to honour and respect you in return. Another way to start thinking about your boundaries is to consider that one person who frequently distracts you or sucks you dry of your time or energy.
One of my deal breakers is that I just won’t allow time for people to gossip, criticise others, or be overall negative around me. I ask people to either change the subject, or I will actually get up and leave. I have no hesitation when it comes to leaving a group or a table where negativity is the dish that’s being served.
Write out a list of your deal breakers: all the things you will say “no” to, unless they align nicely with your own priorities or agenda.
Another way to identify your deal breakers is try to pinpoint any time you feel frustrated, resentful, or even uncomfortable by someone’s request—be it an unwanted birthday invitation, an unexciting request to collaborate, or someone asking for a small favour.
Once you’ve gotten clear on what you don’t want and identified your deal breakers, you can use those to help define your boundaries moving forward. And by doing so, you may have different boundaries for different groups of people. A kiss from a stranger is an unwelcome gesture, but from your partner, it’s a sign of love and affection. It’s worth spending some time to work out what your own personal boundaries are.
Boundaries ultimately boil down to a sense of respect—for both yourself and for others. Respecting one another’s boundaries can help a friendship or relationship—be it a romantic or professional one—flourish; disrespecting or overstepping one’s boundaries can feel like you’ve been emotionally violated and it has a tendency to erode trust quickly.
What are your personal boundaries?
Write them down!
Reflect on them. Meditate on them. Journal about them.
Identifying your own personal boundaries will truly help you to free yourself from situations and people that do not light you up or add value to your life, allowing you to show up powerfully in your life as your best self!