Boundaries are how we engage with and navigate the world around us. In recent conversations with clients and friends I've been hearing a lot of boundary violations or infringements going on. And I get it, sometimes it can be really hard to maintain our personal boundaries especially when we’re dealing with a lot going on in our lives. But this is when it's especially important – and actually critical – to adhere to our personal boundaries.
I also think that sometimes we get a bit confused on how boundaries are meant to be set in order to best serve us and best serve the world.
Personal boundaries can also be defined as limits, principles, and standards we set for ourselves within relationships – including the relationship we have with ourselves.
It's about setting healthy boundaries. It’s about setting them consciously and with intention. It’s about setting them from a heart-centred energy of love.
I know how you are – you want to give and give, and help and support, and provide a listening ear, and work overtime on that important project, and stay in touch with your friends, and get that workout in, and, and, and….
What happens when you give to others without creating or adhering to your boundaries?
I know what happens. I know because I used to do this A LOT. I’d do this by filling up my calendar with visits with friends, volunteer activities, social dinners, workouts, work-related events, even "self-care" activities like getting a massage or a pedicure. Because I had a hard time saying no and because I didn’t want to let anyone down my calendar would get filled up, to the point where I’d start feeling overwhelmed, obligated, resentful, not fully present, not giving my best, exhausted, unhappy, and unfulfilled. I would look for excuses not to do a scheduled activity which meant I cancelled on people a lot. I really disliked this because it meant going back on my word, which in turn felt really incongruent with who I wanted to be. In short, I was breaking my own boundaries. And truthfully, at some point I realized I had never created any boundaries to begin with.
At some point I realized that I was showing up in a resentful or guilty energy. My overwhelm led to feeling resentful about the activity I had committed to, anxiousness about my week which led to sleeplessness, sarcastic comments (yuck), and even the occasional angry outburst (double yuck). At my worst, I would lash out at those that I loved the most. To this day this is still a sign for me that I’ve over-committed and that it’s time to slow down, reassess, and reset my boundaries.
How do YOU know if you’re giving of yourself too much and are breaking your boundaries?
This is how it can sound:
I’ve done it before, I can do it again.
I don’t need help.
I just need to dig deep and push through. It’ll die down soon.
This is my responsibility.
My friends/kids/team/spouse are relying on me.
If I don’t do this, then nobody will.
I’ll rest later.
This is not the time to show weakness.
Do you hear yourself in any of these statements?
If you do, then you are NOT creating or adhering to your personal boundaries and the
outcomes or results can manifest as:
Making bad decisions.
Are you having a visceral reaction to these words? Me too! These are NOT outcomes you want. These are results that do NOT serve you, nor do they serve the very people that you are wanting to give your energy to! These are outcomes that do not serve the world, and as I’ve said before, the world needs your love, your positive energy, your care, and your support. And these can only be accomplished by creating and adhering to personal boundaries.
First and foremost, set your personal boundaries from a place of love - towards yourself, and then to the external world.
Take the time to figure out what your boundaries are. Do this in a quiet and calm space when you feel quiet and calm. Ask yourself “what boundaries would serve me best right now?” You have the answer within you so listen to yourself and trust what your intuition is telling you.
Set your boundaries from a place of love. Not hostility. Not out of obligation. Not out of frustration. And definitely not from a place of selfishness. Remember, boundaries flow both ways – they’re not just for you, but also for the people around you. Be intentional with how the boundary is serving you and others. Are you setting the boundary so that you don’t have to deal with others or get involved in an activity? Or are you setting it because it will give you more energy, more bandwidth, greater ease, increased patience, a sense of calm, or the ability to give back? Be clear on the intention behind each boundary.
Boundaries are best when they’re connected with your values – or what’s most important to you. Check your boundaries against your values. This may take some practice and trial and error. Just because you set a boundary doesn’t mean you can’t change it later on. If the boundary starts feeling awkward or incongruent in real life situations, it could mean it doesn’t quite align with your values.
Lastly, communicate your boundaries in a way that feels right for you and in a loving way that is from the heart. If it comes from the heart, it will be received by the heart in the other person.
I hope this has helped clarify the importance of personal boundaries and also given you some ideas on how to set boundaries in a way that is loving for both you and for the people in your life. Remember, setting intentional, value-driven, heart-centred boundaries is an act of love that will help you be more present and giving in your relationships and allow you the ability for more energy, more time, better sleep, and more love.
Boundaries are a major theme that comes up over and over again with my coaching clients – almost in every session, because they can be challenging to set and stick to, especially for those of us who want to help others and not let anyone down.
This is the beauty of coaching – you can bring up things that are going on in your life on a weekly basis (practically in real time) and get coached on them, work through them, and start new ways of being and doing immediately. If this sounds like something you need, I invite you to connect with me! Book a discovery call today.