15 May Boundaries, do you know yours?
Do you ever find that you are saying “yes” when you want to say is “Hell No!” capital H and capital N? Maybe your boss asks if you can take on an extra task and you already feel like you are drowning in work, but instead of saying that you are too busy, you find yourself inexplicably nodding your head and saying “sure thing”. Do you then find that you walk away scratching your head as to how that happened? Or feeling angry that you are being put upon?
Or maybe you are a busy parent who recognises their need for self-care, and you carve out an afternoon to exercise or catch up with a friend or rest, but then find that you are constantly putting the needs of the rest of the family before your own and cancelling your other plans?
Being aware of our boundaries and enforcing them means we get to say “No”. It means we have a choice to teach someone how to treat us or to walk away when we need to.
What are boundaries and where do they come from?
Boundaries are rules by which you decide what you will and won’t accept. They are a rulebook for how we interact and behave toward ourselves and others. They will be what we refer to when we are formulating how we feel or act about what is happening. I recently read a beautiful and succinct quote on boundaries by Prentis Hemphill “Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously”
Our boundaries come to be due to several factors:
• Personal experiences and needs
• Family of origin
• Cultural and social expectations
• Our attitudes, beliefs, morals and ethics
Like learning anything, it takes practice
Sometimes it may be a struggle enforcing them or even acknowledging them, we may be constrained by what we feel are our own expectations and ideas, or others, of what is acceptable. It may be that you feel you don’t know what you are okay with because you are not used to listening to yourself or giving yourself priority or permission.
And when you do have a clear idea of what you are willing to accept, you may struggle with feeling afraid of carrying that message through.
For example, you may feel that you know you want to RSVP no to a family event as you know you end up triggered every time you catch up with your Aunty Florence, because she either:
- misgenders you
- asks when you are going to have kids
- gives you unsolicited parenting advice (that’s one of my favourites!)
Although knowing this and understanding that you want to enforce a boundary by removing yourself from the situation, you may find that you feel you would upset others by not going and you choose to not enforce the boundary due to the social or cultural pressures of obligation.
The fall out
If you are not being clear with people about what your boundaries and needs are and following through on this, then you may find that you end up being treated in ways that you are uncomfortable with and be confused as to how or why this is happening.
You may also end up feeling like you have little control over how things are and finding that you are not happy with your relationships or your life in general. As I mentioned earlier, if this is happening, you could find that you often end up bemused as to how you have ended up in the situations you are in with too much on, or not enough for yourself, whether it’s resources, time or space.
Where to start?
Ask yourself, “what am I willing to accept, and what am I not?” that is the start. Having some awareness around it will be the beginning of you respecting and honouring your needs and boundaries. Because we can’t control others actions or behaviours, but we have full control over our responses to them.
So, when your boss asks you to attend another meeting for him, or your Aunty Flo invites you over for tea or you are about to cancel yoga so your kids can have a play date, ask yourself these 3 questions:
1. Will saying yes to this situation impact my needs being met?
2. What is the cost to me if my needs are not met?
3. Am I willing to accept the cost of this?
We get to choose what we accept and what we don’t and when we exercise following through on our boundaries, we are also modelling for other people how to do it. Being a teacher to those around us.
Then, we need to express those boundaries, start practicing the “no”. Uncomfortable and unusual as it may feel, practice makes better!