Setting Boundaries – in Life & Business (w/o the Guilt)
A common theme that we all seem to come across, in both life and business, is the need (and challenge) to set boundaries. Keeping your sanity on a day to day basis is sometimes the most challenging task on your plate (and let’s admit it, all of our plates are pretty dang full, right?! – there’s just no room for a side of bullshit). Finding ways to foster our mental health, regain emotional/physical energy, and ultimately thrive needs to be our own priority – because if you aren’t the gatekeeper of your own heart/mind/sanity, then who will be?!
Setting boundaries is crucial in preserving our livelihood, and ultimately creating the life that we want to live. You only get one life, and so many of us waste SO much time and effort doing things that don’t serve us, just to please others! By identifying and creating personal boundaries, we can gain clarity, strengthen our connections with our loved ones, and in turn, cultivate the life we want. Although it might not feel like it in the moment (in fact it might feel quite the opposite), setting boundaries is an act of love – you are giving the people around you the tools to treat you in a way that makes you thrive, so that you can be a better wife/mom/friend/daughter/business partner/colleague/human.
What are personal boundaries, anyway? Boundaries are the guidelines we put in place that tell other people what we are ok with, what we are willing to do, and what we are willing to accept. Everyone’s boundaries are different, and often times you don’t know you’ve crossed one until someone tells you (sometimes awkward – but necessary!).
People have no problem setting some boundaries, like “gluten makes my stomach hurt, so no I will not eat that piece of delicious bread, but thank you for offering”…… but for some reason when it comes to more sensitive boundaries, often times rooted in self worth, it’s easy to feel guilt. That guilt stems from the deep-seeded, dark, slimy belief that lurks in the shadows of our brain, that we don’t deserve that boundary.
First things first, let me stop you right there and tell you that YOU DESERVE TO SET ANY AND ALL BOUNDARIES THAT MAKE YOU A HAPPIER, HEALTHIER, MORE MENTALLY STABLE VERSION OF YOURSELF. There is no guilt or shame in setting those boundaries, no matter what anyone (or the voices lurking in the back of your head) say. Preservation of your own sanity should be your #1 priority, the end. If you can’t take care of yourself, you sure as hell can’t take care of anyone else, so put those boundaries up so you can be the best version of you, for yourself and for the people you love!
There is power and strength in vulnerability.
So, let’s dive right in with a few quick steps to help you set healthy, efficient boundaries…..
1. Identify your goals.
The first step in setting a boundary, is identifying your goals. How would you like to wake up and feel every day? Where do you want to be in 30 years? What is it you really want in this life? Write that shit down. Read it over a few times. Are you on the right path? Are the things you’re doing on a daily basis / people around you / etc., lending to these goals?
2. Identify what isn’t serving you.
Next, you identify the things in your life that aren’t serving you and your goals. Those things could be something deep, like a friend or family member who constantly drains your energy with blatant disregard for your needs/feelings, or a client whose values or work ethics do not align with yours, or it could be as simple as not enjoying a task/hobby you partake in and not wanting to do it anymore because you don’t have to. What do you dread? What makes you feel resentment? What weighs heavy on your heart that is within your control?
3. Get clarity and form the boundary.
Identify those things that are holding you back, write them down, and figure out how to rid yourself of them (or at the very least, limit them). Maybe it means cutting that friend off, or ditching that hobby, or not offering that service in your business, or not answering emails on the weekends. Whatever it is, write it down and acknowledge that you deserve to have whatever it is that that person/activity/etc. is taking away from you. Figure out WHY it bothers you, and clearly identify your boundary. Is it that specific thing that is actually bothering you, or is the resentment stemming from somewhere else? Take some time to think about this, and make sure you are clear on what is bothering you, why it’s bothering you, and how you can limit your distress.
4. Maintain the boundary.
Finally, the hardest part of setting a boundary – sticking to it. The important part here, is knowing your boundary in your own heart, and finding a way to confidently reiterate it when needed, and feel at peace with your decision. The ultimate goal is to be able to present your boundary, cool calm and collected, when someone/something approaches your limit. I suggest taking your notes from the previous step, and combining your What, Why, and How, into a clear statement. Your what/why/how may have some overlap, so you don’t necessarily need to dig too deep into each, but use them as a guideline to create a crystal clear boundary statement for your own reference! (** To be clear, you owe no one a “why”. This suggestion is purely for your own reference and reassurance, and should you choose to share your “why” with someone, that is at your own discretion!! **)
To give you a personal example – Last year I found myself working 7 days a week, every week, essentially from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed (this had been going on for years, and was a habit I couldn’t seem to break). I felt so incredibly guilty any time I’d stop working, for numerous reasons. I knew we could use the money, I wanted my business to grow and be successful, and ultimately I didn’t want to let anyone down.
So, the first step was identifying what I really wanted in life. I wanted balance. I wanted to feel peaceful. I wanted to spend time with family and friends and not be so wrapped up in work that I couldn’t separate my mind from it.
How could I have those things? The first and most obvious solution would be to limit my work hours to a regular schedule. Immediately my mind would go to “But how can I do that? What if someone needs me and I have to say no? What will they think if I’m choosing to sit on my couch in my pajamas rather than take a job? (read: what will they think if I’m choosing MYSELF over THEM)” – this negative self talk prevented me from setting this boundary for too long, and to be honest, my mental stability was on the line.
The longer I let this go on, the more I could feel myself slip away. My mental health was in the pits, my personal relationships were not being nourished, and my self care was nonexistent. Eventually I had no choice but to take a deep breath, sit down, and identify my boundary, or I was going to be mentally and physically incapable of moving forward in business and in life.
So, the personal boundary I came up with is: I am only going to work Monday through Friday, from 8am-6pm, because that is the best way for me to achieve balance, and be the best version of myself, for my family, friends, and clients.
Suddenly, seeing it in writing felt like a game changer. I felt like it was something I could say with confidence. Writing it out in a way that feels affirming and clear will help you not only to reiterate it to others (if you choose to), but also to remind yourself WHY you have this boundary, and that yes, you freaking deserve it!
There are going to be times when people don’t respect your boundaries, which may make you fall back into that routine of questioning – do I actually deserve to have this boundary?! YES, YES YOU DO. If someone is not willing to respect your boundary after you have presented it to them, that is a reflection of their own internal issues, and that is out of your control (Let it gooooo, let it gooooooo – sing it Elsa!). And, to be honest, if someone is the type of person who doesn’t respect your boundaries just because they don’t understand them (or think you deserve them?), are they someone you want to waste energy on? It’s likely that they aren’t!
If someone is unwilling to accept your boundary, you can take comfort in knowing that you gave this person the tools to engage with you in a way that serves your needs, and if that is something they aren’t interested in honoring, then you have the right to choose to not give your time/energy to serving their needs, plain and simple.
And, in turn, when someone presents you with their boundary – don’t take offense to it or make it about yourself – know that that person wouldn’t be putting up a boundary if it wasn’t for some reason necessary for them, and know that you don’t need to understand why, you just need to respect it.
So, with that being said, go out there, build your boundaries with love, and create the bullshit-free life you dreamed of, guiltlessly!