Are you someone who has no issues setting boundaries? Are you able to clearly and with conviction state your needs to partners, friends, family, colleagues and strangers without hesitation or concern about how the boundary will be received? Are you able to easily and quickly identify when your boundary has been stepped on and confidently administer consequences to those involved, ensuring that it doesn’t happen again? If this is you, I want to meet you and learn from you!
Life before boundaries
Let’s be real – setting boundaries is hard. A few years ago, I had no idea what boundaries were or that I could utilize them to protect my energy and create the life I wanted. I believed I was at the whim of what others needed or wanted and that it was up to me to navigate the outcome by either sucking it up silently or being passive aggressively distant until the relationship fizzled. Learning how to set boundaries has been one of the most impactful ways I’ve created a better life for myself and has been pivotal in ensuring that the life I’m living is inline with my values and what’s most important to me.
Real life boundaries
Not sure what boundaries could look like? Here are some examples of boundaries I’ve set recently:
- With family: I am no longer compromising my health for their convenience or comfort through sticking to my anti-inflammatory diet (for endometriosis) at all times
- With my partner: I protect my energy during the day working from home by requiring that my fiance let me know in advance if he’s coming home for lunch rather than showing up unannounced.
- With colleagues: I intentionally manage my calendar and prioritize the work most important to my goals by requiring that people book non-urgent meetings during my office hours
Awareness → understanding → action
Each of these boundaries required me to bring awareness to a sub-optimal situation in my life (i.e. my diet splitting while with family, being disturbed during the workday and feeling overwhelmed by meetings), understand the players and dynamics involved and move into actions that would optimize my happiness. When reviewing my recent boundaries I realized that there were 3 things that each of the situations had in common, which tipped me off that a boundary was desperately needed to restore my peace. Here are the 3 signs to look for in your own life to uncover the areas that are ready for boundary setting:
1. You are triggered
An emotional trigger is a strong emotional reaction to a stimulus. For me, it might look like a burst of irritation when that calendar invite comes through from someone I don’t know asking for a ‘chat’ or to ‘pick my brain’. It might look like anger, frustration or even fear. Emotional triggers are activated by our fight, flight or freeze response and so your personal reaction will be unique to you and your tendency, but one thing’s for sure is that it won’t feel good. Spotting a potential for a boundary starts by noticing the relationships, circumstances and events that trigger an unpleasant emotion or thought within you. If you notice that similar people or situations are triggering these ‘yucky’ feelings…you are on track to identifying your boundary area!
2. You feel stuck
Boundaries often need to be set because we feel like we have no real option to restore our personal wellbeing. As much as we try to ‘ignore’ or ‘rise above’ a situation like a friend who doesn’t text us back or a boss that emails throughout the night, often our feelings around a potential boundary area only get more intense over time and leave us feeling like there is no other option available for us to escape the situation. It often feels like it comes down to two options; put up with the triggering situation indefinitely and continue to swallow the intense and unpleasant emotional reactions OR learn to set a boundary.
3. You’re a broken record
This is a clear alarm bell for me that alerts me that a boundary needs to be set. If I find myself thinking or speaking on a loop about the same person or situation over and over, complaining about the status quo without any move into a potential solution, then I know that I am putting off setting a boundary. Complaining is the enemy of contentment, yet so many of us (including me) LOVE to do it! Next time you find yourself complaining about something that you’ve complained about before, ask yourself – “what boundary could I set here that I’m avoiding?”
Move into action
Maybe, like me, you’ve identified some new areas to set boundaries just by going through this exercise – yay! Of course setting boundaries can feel scary; it requires us to stand in our worthiness, speak our needs and own our truth. Luckily, I dedicated a whole module of my online program Learn to Love Your Life on how to identify, set and enforce boundaries – called “Set Boundaries; See Changes”. I know that you deserve to create a life you love, and setting boundaries is an important skill to master in order to get there. I’m here to support you every step of the way!