It sucks feeling like you’ve been walked all over, or taken advantage of. Maybe it’s been happening so long, it’s starting to feel like the norm?
Personal boundaries are where one person ends and the other person begins. When boundaries have not been set or communicated clearly, it creates confusion and conflict. Especially when two very different personality types or cultures butt heads.
Boundary bulldozers are everywhere: in the boardroom, at the gym, even in your very own home (some of the most notorious boundary bulldozers are barely 2 years old!). If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable or hurt by others too often, it’s time to put clearer boundaries in place.
What are healthy boundaries?
Healthy boundaries are when it’s clear to others what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in their interactions with you. Good boundaries are an indicator of strong self-respect; you know your limits, and you show yourself the respect to not let others violate them.
Setting healthy boundaries is key to having healthy relationships, and protecting you from being taken advantage of. Your boundaries will shift over time, as your priorities change, your patience increases or decreases, and you better understand your own limits. So checking in with yourself often and adjusting the parameters as needed is an important life skill.
Setting boundaries is important not only with others, but with yourself too.
Are you constantly trying to live up to other people’s expectations? Do you always make yourself available to others – even if that means putting your own needs aside? Are you exhausted and need time out? Sometimes we violate our own boundaries out of guilt or fear.
Negotiating our own boundaries can include: prioritizing self care (getting enough rest, exercising, finding time to read or meditate); limiting social media; or not replying work emails outside of work. Setting boundaries for yourself creates space and calms the chaos within your control.
Beginner’s guide to setting boundaries
In upcoming posts we’ll look at setting boundaries in personal and professional relationships up close, but these five steps will give you a starting point:
Pay attention to your feelings
If someone makes you feel crappy or threatened, don’t ignore it. Take a moment to recognize what your emotions are telling you. Do you feel unsupported by your partner’s comments? Does a friend zap your energy with their problems? Does a work colleague take advantage of your generosity by dumping their work on you? Check in with your emotions and recognize how different people make you feel and what you’re prepared to put up with. By knowing your limits, you can start to recognize when your boundaries are being tested and speak up sooner. Be self aware and honour your feelings.
Often when someone’s violating your boundaries, they don’t realize they’re doing it. They might want to offload their problems, stress or unhappiness on you, and that’s where you need to separate yourself. It’s easy to take on another person’s emotional weight; causing you to bend your boundaries and agree to things you don’t really want to. Find strength within through meditation, breathing exercises, or walking away to separate yourself emotionally from the other person. Know where they end and you begin, without taking on their energy.
Communicate your boundaries
Once you know what you’re prepared to tolerate, arm yourself with key phrases, so next time you’re made to feel uncomfortable or taken advantage of, you can make it clear you’re not OK with that behaviour. Be kind and calm, but assertive in your phrases. This takes a lot of practice. You won’t get a degree in boundary-building overnight, so be kind to yourself too. It’ll take several goes till you get the hang of speaking up.
Communicating your boundaries is sometimes as simple as saying ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’. This may come with a big fat side of guilt – especially if you’re known for being the person who’s always offering help. But when you say ‘yes’ to things you don’t want to do, you’ll feel resentment towards the task, yourself for agreeing to it, and the person asking you. It’s not fair on yourself or to the other person.
Stick to your boundaries
When setting new boundaries, stick to them! If someone’s been pushing your boundaries for a long time, they might be surprised when you draw a line the first few times. But eventually they’ll stop asking you for things, knowing you won’t put up with their behaviour.
In the meantime, decide who you’re going to spend your time with. Surround yourself with supportive people who respect your boundaries, and limit the time you spend with notorious boundary-pushers. And just as you want your boundaries respected, look for cues that indicate others may be feeling bulldozed by you.
As an award-winning serial entrepreneur with seven businesses, a husband and five kids, the only way Nadia La Russa can keep all the plates spinning, is by setting firm boundaries. It’s taken years of practice! And now as a Wellness Coach Nadia runs a 12-week Take Control coaching program to help others set healthy personal and professional boundaries. Need one-on-one help setting boundaries in your life? Email to book a free discovery call with Nadia to see how this program could get you back in control.