With so much going on, and the unlimited access we have to each other, it can be easy to experience burnout and overwhelm. Your job wants you to work late at a moments notice, your friends want you out after work for dinner and drinks, your family misses your face, and you can’t tell whether you’re coming or going. Not to mention, the challenges of relationships like time, patience, and empathy. When do you take a moment to yourself? When do you say “no”? How often are you calling yourself a “people pleaser” or “peacekeeper”? That’s cute, but let’s call it what it is: you lack boundaries!
Boundaries are beautiful! Think of a time when you were traveling and came across caution signs or those bright orange traffic cones blocking your normal path. Have you ever looked to see what they were steering you clear of and then cruised by, grateful that the barriers were in place when you saw the Mississippi sized potholes that would’ve undeniably caused you to need an alignment and at least one new tire?
Personal boundaries serve the same purpose; they protect you and others from harm. Your boundaries don’t have to be extreme. Simply refusing to be around people that hurt you is a game changer. Some examples of personal boundaries that have helped me are:
- Most times, my phone is on Do Not Disturb or Silent to limit distractions.
- I say “no” to things and people who’ve repeatedly brought me pain. For most, I have a three-strike system.
- I take time to myself that is non-negotiable.
Your boundaries may be different. Maybe you work “too much” and often experience burnout- you may need to set a certain number of work hours per week and add in personal time to recalibrate daily. You may spend too much time on social media-your boundary could be to limit screen time using app restrictions.
Setting personal boundaries requires you to look at your life through lenses of likes, dislikes, and ultimate goals so that the ones you set are for your best interest. The goal is to set boundaries that bring more peace and discipline to your life so that you live a life of fulfillment. Be careful that your boundaries don’t become a cage. I’m an ambivert, heavy on the introvert, so when I first started setting boundaries, one of them was that I would limit my interactions and the energy I put into all relationships.
Reflecting on that time, I’m able to admit that it wasn’t a boundary, but a cage of limitation. I wasn’t comfortable expending significant energy in most of my relationships, but my growth required me to push through that discomfort. Dig deep when evaluating those likes, dislikes, and goals.
Now that you realize the importance of boundaries, let’s discuss sharing them with others. In a recent therapy session, my amazing therapist mentioned that I’m great at setting boundaries. Then she assigned my homework: share those boundaries with others. Girl. Whet?! Share?!
Fun fact: You don’t grow from setting boundaries and saying “you should have known!” when that secret boundary is crossed. I say secret because until it’s shared, you’re the only one who knows it exists, thus the only one who knows when it’s been violated. If you’re new to setting boundaries, you may struggle with sharing. Here are a few phrases I use when sharing my boundaries:
- “No.” It’s a complete sentence. When the silence feels awkward, that’s fine. Don’t fill it. Stand on your “no”
- “I would prefer if you didn’t speak to me that way”
- “I prefer not to work outside of our predetermined work schedule. If this is a special project, we could discuss my additional compensation requirements for working on this project outside of normal office hours.”
- “I don’t currently have the capacity to discuss this, I would like to revisit the conversation at another time.”
- “_______ doesn’t align with my values”
Admittedly, “No.” is my preferred response to something that goes against my boundaries. As such, I can warn you that the responses you receive won’t always be from a place of understanding. You may be met with animosity, profanity, or frustration. That’s why it’s important to assess your true values when setting your boundaries. You want to make sure that overall, your boundaries are what’s best for you so that you don’t buckle when you’re met with unfavorable responses.
There are times when you’ll adjust your boundaries. For example, you may allow an exception to your “no calls after 8” boundary for a friend in need. The exceptions are situational and life will call for adjustments, so be prepared but don’t negate your boundaries and neglect your needs.
Try setting some boundaries and let us know what impact it has on your life. If you’re afraid of sudden changes in relationships, I highly recommend starting with yourself. Maybe you set the boundary that you won’t use your phone after 8 or if you have children, maybe you’ll block out an hour a day to play with them with no distractions or interruptions.
If you’d like more content on boundaries, let us know in comments below!