This is a work in progress for me! It’s something I’m much better at, but I still need major improvements. Every experience I have where I’m being polite and obliging when I actually feel frustrated, pissed off and a fiery rage is slowly building on the inside is a learning experience.
I pride myself on having a very free and flexible working life. If I get a spur of the moment invitation for lunch, I would often say yes! A friend who has been away for a while was back home and texted me to see if he could call over for lunch, I said yes – I was working but was happy to stop for lunch with him. He said no problem, he’d be over in an hour for an hour. Great stuff!
I work from home and it’s fabulous. The problem is, sometimes it’s a bit too free and flexible.
Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and a healthy life. We might pick up pointers here and there from experience or through watching others. But for many of us, boundary-building is a relatively new concept and a challenging one.
Setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that many of us don’t learn!
- Name your tolerations.
You can’t set good boundaries if you’re unsure of where you stand. So identify your physical, emotional, mental limits. Consider what you will tolerate and accept and what you will not tolerate. What pushes the edge of your boundaries and starts to make you feel uncomfortable or stressed? Knowing where the edge is and when we start feeling uncomfortable can help us to identify what are limits are.
- Tune into your feelings.
There are two key feelings that can be red flags that our boundaries are being crossed. They are: discomfort and resentment. If in any situation you are feeling strong feelings of resentment or discomfort, ask yourself ‘what is causing that feeling?’, ‘What is it about this situation or person that is bothering me?’
Resentment usually comes from being taken advantage of, disrespected or not appreciated. It’s often a sign that we’re pushing ourselves either beyond our own limits because we feel guilty or because someone else is imposing their expectations, views or values on us. Women in general tend to have weaker boundaries than men due to our upbringing because we’ve been raised to be ‘good girls’, polite, respectful etc!
- Give yourself permission.
Fear, guilt and self-doubt are big potential pitfalls to setting boundaries. We might fear the other person’s response if we set and enforce our boundaries. We might feel guilty by speaking up or saying no to a family member or friend. Many women believe that they should be able to cope with a situation or say yes because they’re a ‘good/nice person’, even though they feel drained or taken advantage of. Boundaries aren’t just a sign of a healthy relationship; they’re a sign of self-respect. So give yourself the permission to set boundaries and work to preserve them.
- Make self-care a priority.
You need to make self-care a priority – this involves giving yourself permission to put yourself first. When we do this, our need and motivation to set boundaries become stronger. Self-care also means recognising the importance of your feelings and honouring them. These feelings serve as important cues about our well-being and about what makes us happy and unhappy.
Putting yourself first also gives you the energy, peace of mind and positive outlook to be more present with others and be there for them.” And when we’re in a better place, we can be a better partner, friend and co-worker.
- Seek support.
If you’re having a hard time with boundaries, seek some support! A great thing to do with friends or family is to make it a priority with each other to practise setting boundaries together and hold each other accountable.
- Be assertive.
Of course, we know that it’s not enough to create boundaries; we actually have to follow through. Even though we know intellectually that people aren’t mind readers, we still expect others to know what hurts us. Since they don’t, it’s important to assertively communicate with the other person when they’ve crossed a boundary.
In a respectful way, let the other person know what in particular is bothersome to you and that you can work together to address it.
- Start small.
Like any new skill, assertively communicating your boundaries takes practice. Start with a small boundary that isn’t threatening to you, and then incrementally increasing to more challenging boundaries. Build upon your success, and [at first] try not to take on something that feels overwhelming.
Setting boundaries takes courage, practice and support. And remember that it’s a skill you can master.
Guest blog post Setting Better Boundaries – by Paula Coogan, The Quarter-Life Coach. Paula is an accredited Life and Executive Coach and specialises in working with women in their 20’s and 30’s, who are asking themselves ‘Is this it?’
For details of Paula’s coaching packages and programmes visit www.myquarterlifecoach.com
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