When thinking of boundaries, you may think of something your teachers or parents did to stop all of the real fun. I immediately think of a mom placing her young toddler in a playpen to keep him or her safe while she makes a phone call. I also think of the 4-foot chain link fence in my backyard that keeps my Doberman, Ali, safe, and holds the outside world at bay.
Did you know that although boundaries and limitations have a negative connotation, that they can also be healthy? Boundaries can be healthy when you start feeling burned out, ignored and useless, but can’t seem to trace the root of your feelings. It’s relatively easy for us to set healthy limitations for our children, nieces, nephews, and even our pets. But, where do we stand when it comes to creating and honoring healthy boundaries for ourselves? Just as a loving mother sets reasonable boundaries to care for her child, we have to learn to set them in our personal and professional lives. Merriam Webster’s dictionary says the word boundary means “unofficial rules about what should not be done, or limits that define acceptable behavior.” Thus, it’s really an act of self-love because those boundaries protect your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Here are 3 incredible tips to help you create and honor personal boundaries.
1). Determine why you want to create boundaries.
Did something upsetting recently happen? Are you tired of having your needs ignored, or is it something else? Despite your why, make sure you’re honest with yourself about your reasons. For example, if I want to create a new confine that includes not accepting phone calls after 9 pm during the work week so that I can go to bed earlier, that would eliminate phone conversations with my mother and sisters because they live in different time zones. Is that what I really want? Or, do I want my mom and sisters to call me after 9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays only? Either way, I need to be clear about what I want. And, you do too because it makes everything easier. Trust me.
2). Determine what your boundaries will consist of.
What is it that you want others to do, or stop doing? It’s important to know this so you can easily share it as soon as possible. One reason for sharing your newfound expectations is to allow others time to adjust, and to allow yourself time to practice enforcing them. Yep, it’s all about you, and being in control of your life. If I don’t want to accept phone calls after 9 pm, I should also avoid calling others during that time to avoid sending mixed messages. And, I have to avoid chatting excessively if someone calls me, so that they’ll take my requests seriously.
Remember that setting these healthy confines are beneficial for your well-being, and will enable you to feel more empowered. Unfortunately, it’s sad, but true: people will treat you exactly how you allow them to. Word to the wise, no one has the right to guilt you into disregarding your healthy boundaries.
3). Determine how you will react when your boundaries are challenged.
How will you react when someone within your family, neighborhood, or work life challenges your new boundaries? You have every right to be upset if someone disrespects you by doing something you’ve asked them to stop doing. Your reaction will also affect future interactions, so it’s in your best interest to at least try to stay calm.
For example, if your friend or colleague often loud talks you when they’re trying to make a point, you should be angry. You should also immediately stop anything that doesn’t honor and respect who you are as soon as it happens, before it becomes a problem. But I digress. After deciding that enough is enough, explain how it makes you feel, and that it will stop today. The next time it happens, calmly and firmly address it. Something like this is appropriate: “Excuse me, William or Mandy, but I was talking. And, my tone isn’t loud. So, I would appreciate it if you could lower your tone to match mine. If not, we can continue this conversation another time.” End of discussion!
Health and happiness expert Dr. Susan Biali, states in her Psychology Today article, It’s Time to Say No When You Need To, that “your boundaries and needs don’t actually go away. In fact, if you avoid expressing them when you should, it is guaranteed to cause problems. The ostrich who sticks his head in the ground and keeps it there will eventually get run over by a bus. Though it feels like we’re avoiding unpleasant consequences by bending to the needs of others, things are sure to get worse, not better, in our relationships, life and even health if we don’t learn to live within our own boundaries.”
Do not waste your precious time and energy debating about something that makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s true that some people will resist your new boundaries. If they’re unwilling to appreciate the new, happier you, it’s time to find new friends and colleagues. I call this cutting your losses. I’ve done it before, and it’s very freeing. If dealing with this person mentally and physically drains you, you need to revise your inner circle and let them go. You are worthy of creating and honoring healthy confines in your life.
Have you experienced setting boundaries, and managing any resistance in your personal or professional life? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!
Karen Doniere is an author, blogger, and speaker with a passion to inspire women, moms, and mompreneurs to take better care of themselves. She is the chief curator of the KD Collection, where she shares her heart in every article. Karen is the author of the new Baby Bear children’s book series, and the creator of The Forgiveness Project: a positive and healing conversation where women feel safe to share their journeys. Through her mentoring program, she helps women turn their ideas into achievements, one step at a time. Karen’s inspirational articles have been featured on websites such as She Owns It and She is Fierce!
Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Boundary.
Biali, S. (2013). It’s Time to Say No When You Need To. Psychology Today.