Boundaries is one of the most popular topics I coach in my transformation work – and it’s completely understandable! We have not been taught (or taught well) to set and uphold boundaries in service of ourselves.
So firstly, what is the definition? For me, Boundaries are the limits you set to define what you will and will not do, accept or tolerate. So your boundaries are, in essence, what’s ok - and not ok - for you. They are very personal and they are very specific.
So how good is your boundary management?
What is stopping you from setting boundaries that are in your highest and best interest?
The cold hard truth is most of the time your own beliefs and excuses around boundaries are precisely what keep you from setting and maintaining them.
It’s also common to think of boundaries as restrictive and depriving - that they are about keeping something ‘out’. But I invite you to reframe this and instead see them as expansive and integrating. How? Well, boundaries strengthen your capacity to bring in what you want. They are, in essence, the way in which we reinforce ourselves. And here’s something that may not be immediately apparent - if your boundaries are being crossed, you are the one crossing them. A boundary is always between ‘you and you’, even if another person is involved.
Let’s dive a little deeper as a boundary is not about wanting someone else to change. It is about your own needs and what you will do to honour and care for yourself. You see, it’s not up to anyone else to respect, honour or uphold your boundaries. Your boundaries are yours to set and yours to maintain. Interesting to note too that setting them is 20% of the work but maintaining them is 80% of the work! In essence, boundaries:
help you clarify what you will and won’t do
help you express your needs without conflict or guilt
reinforce your self-worth; and
ensure that your vision for your life becomes a reality.
I’d even go so far as to say that what you don't have in your life is directly proportional to the boundaries you have not set. And, you pay a high price for not setting boundaries, including:
your unmet needs and desires
lost time and energy
honest intimate relationships.
hours committed to others’ dreams instead of your own, and
feeling guilty, ashamed, less than or even resentful.
Without boundaries to support you, you’re likely tolerating the intolerable and accepting the unacceptable in some (or several) areas of your life.
How is this landing with you? Do you feel the boundaries you have set are sufficient?
If not, think of it this way. Each time you set a healthy boundary you’re saying Yes to you and reminding yourself that you are trustworthy and can follow through on your promise and commitment to yourself. This moves you out of blame and victim mode into responsibility and empowerment. Let’s ground this theory now and look at a common way many people cross their own boundaries - by saying Yes, when they really want to say No. Eg: A request comes in and the response is often a knee-jerk Yes. The motivation is usually about avoiding conflict, or not wanting someone to be upset, disappointed or angry with you. Or, it’s out of obligation or a sense of responsibility. Or, it’s to solidify your role as a rescuer or fixer. Another big reason we often say Yes when we want to say No is that it feels easier to disappoint ourselves instead of someone else. We are so used to taking the ‘hit’ and causing ourselves pain rather than have someone else be in pain.
But none of those reasons point to a true and honest response of ‘Yes’. It is critical to realise the only reason to say yes is when it’s in alignment with your desire.
Think of this - the more we avoid external conflict, the more internal conflict we are creating. That’s not healthy. It creates dis-ease in the body, becoming Disease.
So what to do?
Well, the antidote to the knee-jerk yes is to begin building in a pause so you can check in with yourself first, asking the questions:
What do I want? What do I think?
How do I feel? What do I need?
The pause is an example of a boundary you set and maintain with yourself so you can respond with No if you’re ready, or with “I’ll get back to you tomorrow” to consider your own desire first. That is respecting your own boundary with yourself!
And also understand that if - after the pause - the answer is NO, you can say no with gratitude and grace instead of excuses and apologies. I recommend integrating this mantra into your life as you consider boundaries
“This is my truth, and I am going to set a boundary around xyz to take care of myself”. There may be discomfort at first - but do it anyway. And as you reconnect with yourself and truly understand who you are, boundaries will become a natural expression of protecting and growing your own self-worth. And before you know it, setting boundaries becomes a way of life.
And you will be better for it, as they allow you to show more of who you are, not less. They support intimacy and connection with others as you are showing up in your truth. You are effectively giving the other person a page of your operating manual. Showing them how you want to be treated.
Note as well it is not your responsibility to justify, or manage someone else's response to your boundary. What they do with the information is on them, not on you. You do not have the power to make anyone else feel anything - other people's reactions and emotions are their responsibility. That recalibration alone is a big shift to embrace.
I encourage you to take some time and reflect on your personal boundary management, and see if there are adjustments that can be made to live your life in alignment with what you truly desire.
As I mentioned, this is a crucial area of coaching I explore with my clients. If this has resonated with you, or if you’d like a partner to work through the setting and upholding of boundaries, I’d be happy to speak further.