Does the thought of setting boundaries make you feel guilty?
Shameful? Selfish? Or, just plain bad? If you said yes to any or all of these, you aren’t alone!
When most of us think about the word boundaries, we associate it with building walls or a line of defense that negatively affects others. But in all reality, boundaries aren’t brick and mortar barricades, nor do they hurt other people. In fact, boundaries are a good thing that helps both you and others around you understand and respect one another on a deeper, more humane level. When healthy boundaries are established we offer healthful, more productive, and fulfilling relationships and exchanges with one another.
We all have limits, right? If we begin by realizing our own limits and reset our internal expectations to a more realistic and achievable level, we respect and honor our thoughts, feelings, time, and abilities more; and in turn, build the courage and confidence it takes to set the same expectations with others interacting with you.
So how do you start the boundary building process? With small, satisfying steps:
1. Set a Daily Intention (Clarity)
Start your morning off right by setting yourself up for success. Stating your daily intention before your feet even hit the ground help do just that – ground you…For the morning, the day, and for the probable challenges that come your way.
Setting a daily intention allows you to not only plan for the micro and macro goals you’d like to work towards and/or achieve that day, but respecting realistic boundaries. It’s easier to see we have overzealous prospects if we say them all together in a group.
Think of it this way, if you were to list everything you planned on getting done in the first half of the day, you will have an emotional reaction to that list. Like, “Oh wow, that sounds like a lot.” Or “Totally attainable, I got this.” For the response where it sounds like a lot – it’s because it is… Like “too much” a lot. When it’s too much, it’s time to rewind and reset more realistic boundaries with yourself so you can end the day feeling energetically accomplished instead of like an overwhelmed failure.
2. Acknowledge the Value
The second step is realizing the value your boundaries bring to your day and overall life. Assessing what you gain from setting specific boundaries keeps you committed to following through with them. You see the pot of gold at the end of the boundary bow (boundary rainbow). You are so close to reaching it. You want that treasure so bad and the only way you are going to reach it is to follow through, respecting yourself and by happenstance, others around you. If you lose sight of the prize, you are more willing to jump off the radiant arch, sacrificing your own value, time, and talents. I’m not willing to throw myself off the ridge, are you? The answer here is no.
Ask yourself this: What could healthy boundaries with colleagues, friends, and family make more space for you to accomplish? Unhealthy boundaries, aka. being boundaryless is a time and energy suck, as well as a confidence killer. Just think of the achievements and success you’d have with more hours in the day, the esteem you deserve, and clearer communications…. It’s a LOT!
3. Define Your Priorities
This is where YOU decide what it is that you need, want, or would be nice to have. Categorizing your goals or intentions like this allows you to more clearly prioritize not only the day at hand, but the near future.
Limiting your daily intention list to THREE, manageable and realistic things is a healthy place to start. You may find with more time and practice as a boundary-master you can grow that list, but it’s important not to overwhelm yourself especially in the beginning. We don’t want you feeling defeated and blaming your new boundary-making skills for your suffrage.
4. Consistent, Concise, Clear Communication (Courage)
Share, share, and share some more. If you don’t communicate your boundaries and expectations with others how will they know what line not to cross? Clear, concise communication with others on the regular is the best way for others that impact you to learn your limits.
Letting others know what your boundaries are can be extremely difficult in the beginning but push through the discomfort. Growing pains are to be expected, but the world is absolutely gorgeous on this side of the boundary-bow, so keep on the path and you will find fulfillment.
Know that communication goes both ways, so be looking for your recipient to share their boundaries with you, if not now, in the future. Respect is a swinging door (it also goes both ways) and no one wants to get hit by it unexpectedly.
5. What Do You Need?
Tune into what you are feeling – a lot of times our emotions will tell us what we need or when a boundary has been crossed. If what you are feeling is resentment, overwhelm, or bitterness, you can bet your bottom dollar you feel like someone has bulldozed your boundaries.
When an interaction leaves a nasty taste in your mouth, sit down and take the time to ask yourself why? What are you feeling that very second and try to connect it back to the moment that it started? What is that feeling telling you? What is it you really need right then and there? And, finally, how can you attain it?
6. Start Small (Confidence)
If you start your boundary building journey one brick at a time you will witness an intricate, sturdy, foundational work of art that you mastered all by yourself. But what happens when you just take a chunk of bricks (like four or five) and try to slap them on really quick – like half throwing them at your own dang creation? Well, sometimes other bricks will fall off or, with enough force (aka too many elemental changes) the whole thing completely collapses.
You are the creator… And with too many changes or additions made at once, we are bound to break. Small, bite-size changes make for consistent growth that you can appreciate and rely on being there throughout time. So, when it comes to setting boundaries, take baby steps – a small boundary with yourself first, then a small one there with a colleague… Starting small builds your confidence to make harder decisions in the future.
7. Practice Self-Compassion
Setting boundaries IS hard; especially in the beginning, but I know you will get there! There will be hiccups both forwards and backward throughout your life establishing them – all you are expected to do with these hiccups is to practice self-compassion. You are not perfect, nor are you a fortune teller looking into the mystical globe of your future self. Boundaries will need to shift and be tweaked – that’s ok.
Recenter yourself by asking what it is that you have complete control over. What steps can you take next? Show yourself the love and compassion you deserve to keep moving forward and leave the past exactly there, the past.
These seven steps are here as a guide for you along your journey to healthier relationships through clear, communicated boundaries. Use them often and practice daily and you too will become a boundary positive boss!