“Boundary” is a word that seems to be on everyone’s lips lately.
And with so much confusion, tension, and uncertainty in our world right now, boundaries are becoming more important than ever for our own individual self-care.
But while boundaries can be easy to identify, they are not always easy to enforce. Guilt and insecurity can sabotage your boundaries faster than you can say “no.”
Read on for my tips and practices to help you get clear about boundaries.
First: Everyone needs boundaries.
No matter how open, helpful, or available you want to be.
Boundaries serve an important purpose: They protect your time, energy, and feelings.
Healthy boundaries help you take control of your schedule, prevent drama, and deepen your relationships.
Yes, that’s right: Good boundaries can actually bring you closer to the people you love.
Sometimes we shy away from stating or setting our boundaries because we worry that it might push someone away, hurt someone’s feelings, or put up a wall.
Do you know how awesome relationships get when people know and respect each other’s boundaries?
It’s what makes for great, long-lasting love, true friendships, and quality workplaces.
But boundaries can get sticky when they are not communicated appropriately.
With boundaries being a popular discussion over the last few years, a lot of us become clear about what boundaries are and why they matter.
But boundaries are also easily confused for other things. Such as avoidance of challenging conversations.
Or the conflation between boundaries and demands – ways to control another person’s behaviour within a relationship. Which is not the purpose of a boundary.
Sometimes people even cross their own boundaries, and then get angry about it later and hold it against someone who didn’t even know anything was wrong.
The thing is, you can’t be angry with anyone else but yourself if you let people cross your boundaries without even telling them there’s a boundary in the first place.
Boundaries require self-awareness.
Communicating your boundaries means being open to hearing and respecting other people’s boundaries, too.
Just as boundaries aren’t meant to become demands to prescribe how others should behave, boundaries are also not meant to be a one-way experience.
Everyone has boundaries. Some people may have more leeway than others. But if we are all walking around without paying any attention to the consequences of our actions, questions, or conversations, then boundaries can go out with the window pretty quickly.
When you set boundaries, there will be pushback.
Unfortunately, some people just don’t seem to understand boundaries. I’m always confused by people who have been blocked by a former friend or ex online and yet keep trying to contact them to find out why.
Truth: If someone is putting out a signal that they don’t want to talk to you, walk away. Their silence is speaking volumes.
Of course, there are other examples of how boundaries get crossed. Sometimes, it happens in business. Customers and clients cross boundaries all the time: They show up late for scheduled appointments, speak rudely to staff, or challenge a policy.
These are just a few of the ways people can and do pushback against boundaries.
And depending on your own personality, you might feel guilty when this happens. Maybe you start to wonder if you’re the one who’s wrong.
Maybe you think to yourself, “I’ll just make an exception this one time,” or, “Maybe I should be more flexible.”
As someone who has struggled with these exact thoughts – and compromised my boundaries as a result – let me tell you something: Ditch the guilt and stand your ground.
I have wasted so much time on friends, colleagues and clients who had no appreciation or gratitude for concessions I made, and who continued to take advantage of me later.
Build relationships with people who respect you – personally and professionally.
No one is entitled to your time or headspace.
Unfortunately, some people believe otherwise. When someone acts entitled to my time or attention, especially with a tantrum or guilt trip, a red flag goes up immediately.
Who has time for someone who is going to be demanding, needy, and controlling?
You can be flexible and have boundaries – they are not mutually exclusive.
Sometimes people worry about putting up boundaries because they don’t want to be perceived as inflexible or rigid.
You can choose when to compromise. You can also change your boundaries, which you may do over time as needed.
Having boundaries doesn’t mean you can’t be open, easygoing, or adaptable.
Because no matter what kind of person you are, you have limits, right?
I know I do.
I am quite open about many things. You can ask me a lot of questions and I frequently share personal experiences through my writing for the sake of connection and openness.
However, it doesn’t mean people can ask me anything. And it doesn’t mean I have to answer everything, either.
Being open does not mean I am not entitled to privacy, or to time off from certain topics.
Generosity is another good example of where boundaries are necessary.
Someone can be generous with their time or money, but still have boundaries about what they give and when, as well as how often.
Boundaries allow us to understand how much of ourselves we are willing to give, and helps us determine when to stop so that we don’t overextend our limits.
Boundaries also help you get things done.
I’ve written eight books in 14 years. A lot of people ask me how I’ve managed to do that on top of building a business and still having a life outside of that.
Boundaries are not the only key to my success, but they are part of it.
If I said yes to everything that came my way, if I reacted to every single email I got, if I stayed friends with unreliable people … then I would be constantly stuck in someone else’s needs, timelines, and priorities.
Being clear in what I want to do – write books, run a business, have a certain kind of lifestyle – allows me to be clear in what kinds of boundaries are necessary to achieve those things.
I protect my time based on what needs to get done. I set my boundaries based on all of my priorities, not just one or two.
So if you’re having trouble setting boundaries, or you need to refresh some old ones, start by asking:
What is that it really matters to me?
What do I need time for?
What wastes my time?
And, what can I do to honour my boundaries more often?
Until next time,