TOOLS, RESOURCES, AND CONTENT
TO HELP YOU DO YOUR WORK
AND LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE
HOW HEALTHY BOUNDARIES IMPROVE YOUR LIFE
Last week I covered why you should invest in a coach because 1) you’re worth it and 2) the investment in yourself helps you level up in ways you can’t even imagine. (FYI: I do have slots open on my calendar and would love for you to book a free discovery call to see if we are a good fit. I look forward to talking with some of you and working together soon!)
Today we are diving into all things boundaries. If you are like me, the mere mention of this topic might make your shoulders crawl up towards your ears and tension tighten the muscles down your spine. Honestly, I think this is a topic we should begin teaching in all schools and from an early age because if all the people in the world set and maintained healthy boundaries, there would be a seismic shift on the planet.
AN EMBARRASSING STORY
May I share with you a story I am embarrassed about now that I look back on it? It makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it so please have grace for me in this…I was at a women’s retreat where I had spoken. It was my first time doing one of these, I was still in the throes of my life being eviscerated, and I was, well, still quite the train wreck if I am being honest. During one of the afternoon activities, women were climbing a rock wall. And because that is SO NOT my jam, I was watching from a bench in front of the wall. Well, one woman got stuck and couldn’t find the next thingy to step on to keep moving forward, so I oh so helpfully said something like “right foot to red”. She looked down and saw the red thing, put her foot on it, and continued the climb. I felt helpful so from then on I gave clear direction for every single step every woman needed to take to reach the top. At the moment I honestly thought I was being helpful, but what I was doing was undermining them by not allowing them to find their way forward. The empowerment they were meant to find by climbing their way to the top of the wall was drained courtesy of my “helping”. I feel such remorse over my then twisted view of what helping meant and how it can sometimes be more of a handicap than a help.
The root cause for this was my lack of healthy boundaries. I help so that people will like me and need me, and if they need me, they will keep me around. It was born from my earliest memories when I felt responsible for everyone in my life. This is wrong, and I continue to work on this thanks to a book I read.
WHAT ARE BOUNDARIES?
I have to say this book has left the biggest impact on my life besides the Bible. It’s Boundaries: When to say yes, how to say no to take control of your life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.
Let’s get a 50,000-foot look at the concept of boundaries. Boundaries tell people what you expect and what you will except. Saying no, holding tight to your values, and not carrying what isn’t yours to carry are all examples of healthy boundaries. I talk a lot about learning to manage your time and energy. Boundaries play a huge role in this process. I like to think of boundaries as guardrails for our lives. They keep us on track, so we don’t slide off into a ditch. We use them to set boundaries with ourselves and others. It helps people know how to treat us and guides how we treat others. Setting healthy boundaries requires a deep dive into what you want, your preferences, your desires, deal-breakers, and must-haves, and it requires you to express yourself clearly.
TYPES OF BOUNDARIES
I follow The Holistic Psychologist on Instagram, and I am constantly blown away by her work. A while back she shared a post that defined five categories where we need healthy boundaries: emotional, material, time/energy, physical and mental. Some examples she gave how to know where you might need to implement boundaries are:
Emotional – justifying, assuming, emotional dumping
Material – what you share and how it is treated
Time/energy – being late, expecting favors and free labor
Mental – forced opinions, beliefs, opposing values
Physical – personal space, unwanted physical comments, PDA
And remember, when working on boundaries, you have to consider both ends of the spectrum. Look at how you are experiencing this FROM others and how you might be doing this TO other people. No matter how good we think we are, we always have areas that need work. It is part of us being ever-evolving women.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH NO BOUNDARIES?
Unhealthy boundaries are dangerous. I think the world would be much better if everyone set healthy boundaries. We would know what each other expected and accepted, and could then self-monitor to ensure we stay respectful towards those in our lives and vice versa.
I talk a lot about learning to manage your time and energy. Boundaries play a significant role in this. These last two years have done some apple cart turnover in our lives, and boundaries have shifted. What we value has shifted. We have seen a mass exodus from jobs requiring us to work around the clock for a company’s bottom dollar while our relationships and health suffer. People are changing how they live and what they are willing to sacrifice to do things differently.
I’ve spent most of my life with few boundaries. I poured all of my time and energy into what others demanded from me. This became a mutually manipulative game that ended poorly. Thanks to therapy, loving friends, and hard work, I’ve learned to practice healthy boundaries, and I work on them daily. There is a simple process for doing this that you can follow. It isn’t easy, but it is simple and will radically change your life.
As with most processes, I suggest you start by clarifying your active core values. It’s hard to know where you need healthy boundaries if you don’t know what you value. Once you have your 3-5 values, you can see where you need boundaries. Then you must honor and protect them. By following these three steps on repeat, you will begin to establish and communicate healthy boundaries in all areas of your life. This will free up energy and time you can use to chase your dreams. Let’s dig into this process a bit deeper.
THE PATH TO HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
First, I recommend you spend some time looking at the boundaries you already have around your core values. We have to ensure we practice our values daily. Healthy boundaries protect and guard these with the respect and honor they deserve.
Energy and time are required to chase your best self and ideal life. If you give away both to meet the requests of others, you are choosing to turn your back on what you say you want in favor of the payoff you get for doing the will of others. And trust me, there is always a payoff!
Setting boundaries is a profound act of self-love, and one of the simplest ways to workshop boundary setting is by filling in this sentence:
I value ______ so I need to ______ and I will honor this by _________.
I’ll give you an example based on one of my core values, which is to protect my peace. I value peace so I need to ensure all I allow into my life fosters more peace, and I will honor this by stepping out of any relationship that threatens it. Nothing is worth forfeiting my peace of mind.
You need to create boundaries for every area of your life – your life buckets as I call them. If one of your life buckets is wellness, then you need to ensure your daily choices support and improve your wellness. If finances are a life bucket for you, then you need to make sure you have secure boundaries around the money going in and out of your life. For those of you who did the life wheel, we talked about in an earlier post, assess each area on your wheel and measure the health of the boundaries you have around them.
COMMUNICATING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
Now it is time to share our new boundaries. This requires excellent communication. We must stop thinking others should know what we are thinking and feeling, and we need to start speaking up for ourselves. Plus it is our job to protect our values. We must define, protect, and honor them, and setting boundaries is a huge part of this process. Healthy boundaries are a lifestyle. It isn’t a fad to jump onboard or a one-and-done exercise. It is a day-in, day-out dance you will do for the rest of your life.
Once you are clear on the boundaries you need to set, you need to come up with effective, healthy, and kind ways to share them with others. Here are some examples of what you could say to demonstrate a healthy boundary:
The most basic way to communicate this: “No.” (Remember it is a complete sentence.)
If someone is trying to tell you you’re wrong say, “Thank you for the feedback,” and then exit the conversation.
When you get pulled into conversations you don’t want to be part of say “I am not comfortable having this discussion” or “If you comment on this again, I will remove myself from the conversation.”
If you work at a job that doesn’t respect your time, you might need to tell them “While I am on vacation, I will be unable to take your calls or return emails. I will handle them when I return on Monday the 5th.”
And if someone is criticizing you in any way, tell them, “I will no longer tolerate being spoken to this way.” And then don’t tolerate it. Remove yourself from the situation and install healthy boundaries for any interaction going forward.
BOUNDARIES = BIG FEELS
When communicating your boundaries to another person, let them have their feelings. In all fairness, we train people how to treat us, and changing the rules be upsetting. Acknowledge their feelings but don’t cave to them. Restate the boundary line and clarify the action you want them to stop. Let them know why you are doing this. Own your part but do not own their role. You may need to restate your boundary again. Sometimes it takes a minute, especially if there is an established pattern of unhealthy boundaries. Do not engage in a battle over it. Do not overexplain why you are setting it. This is your one beautiful life, and you don’t owe anyone a reason for how and why you live it.
And please, DO NOT APOLOGIZE for setting boundaries. You don’t need to feel sorry for doing what is best for you. Don’t make any negative reactions mean anything to your worth or value. Setting boundaries is not mean or rude. It is actually loving, kind, and empathetic. There should be no guilt and shame about creating healthy guidelines for this journey through life. It’s simply about understanding why and what you need and communicating that effectively.
You may find it most challenging to set healthy boundaries for those you love the most. This is natural as these are your most important relationships. For approval junkies like me, setting boundaries can upset the only pathology we know, but it is a pathology we need to eliminate. Setting boundaries doesn’t mean you walk around saying no to every request. When done right, they open the door to new opportunities. Decide in advance what constitutes a boundary violation and choose how you will react if this occurs. If you walk thru the possibilities and create a plan for how you will respond, you will not be caught off guard if you experience them.
Sometimes the hardest person to set healthy boundaries with is yourself. It requires doing uncomfortable things, like saying no to people, not solving everyone’s problems, and telling another person what you need. Remember, no is a complete sentence, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
If you come from a trauma background or a dysfunctional family dynamic, setting boundaries may be very challenging for you. It also may result in some intense pushback. You know your situation, so please approach this with our safety in mind. You may need the help of a professional to establish and communicate these. Please, get help. A therapist is one of the best gifts we can all give ourselves!
THIS IS A LIFETIME DANCE
Healthy boundaries should be your most utilized defense mechanism for protecting your life. When first building them, note they take time and practice. It is easy to overcorrect when you first set them, and there will be trial and error periods at first. You don’t want them to be rigid because they can become a prison that keeps you locked inside. This takes practice so pour some grace on the table for yourself as you work on these.
Any time you are feeling some tension in your life, especially if it is a place where you feel drained, stop and evaluate the boundaries you have in that place. Then make a plan to adjust some of the parameters you have around that area and see what changes. Again, it is trial and error. It is a bit of a dance, and you are creating new choreography to help create some margin and relieve some of the tension.
Have you seen the Netflix docu-series Cheer? When the season begins they teach the choreography to the entire team of 40. Then they begin narrowing down the best fit for each position as only 20 will make the mat. Once full-outs start they see weak spots and begin to change the steps and counts to make it stronger. It is a constant pattern of learning, applying, adjusting. Boundaries are the same way.
When your values change and shift, so will your boundaries. Sometimes a new person or situation will come into your life, and you will recognize a need for a new boundary. In relationships, you may need collaborative boundaries that are mutually agreed upon. This will ensure you both are getting your needs met. Boundaries help establish an equal power dynamic in relationships. It keeps things more balanced, fair, and equitable.
A HEADS UP FOR WHAT MAY COME
You must recognize that setting boundaries will come at a cost – just like any other shift you make in moving towards a new way of life. Those who have benefited from your unhealthy boundaries might not throw a parade when you start saying no. Some people might walk away from you. Please, let them go. You can be sad about it, sure, but let them go. They have a choice to make. They can choose to shift their behavior to respect and honor you by respecting and honoring your boundaries, or they can decide they do not want to. If they don’t want to respect you, then they need to go because you deserve to be surrounded by a community that loves and respects you and how you want to live your life. I promise, even when it’s hard, your life will begin to flood with new energy, and there will be more margin for you to give the areas you value.
As you begin this hard and holy practice of setting healthy boundaries, some junk from your past is sure to bubble up to the surface. You may find areas where you need to do some work and old mindsets and scripts that no longer serve the woman you are becoming. You may find places where you need to reparent yourself. Regardless of how amazing your family unit was, w all have areas where needs went unmet, or you learned messages that don’t serve you. Real talk here: You are a grown person now, so it is not your family’s job to fix those places. It is yours, so do your work.
WRAP IT UP
The biggest takeaway I hope you take is, if you want others to respect your boundaries and take you seriously, you need to do the same. If you draw a line in the sand and someone pushes back, evaluate the why behind that. There is a slight chance that you could be being too rigid, but more likely than not, the person is responding with big feelings because you changed the game rules and they don’t like it. It is okay for them not to like it. It is NOT okay for you to surrender your life and forfeit your values because of their reaction. They will survive their feelings, and so will you. You will live with healthy boundaries intact and will have the energy needed to pursue what matters most to you.
Remember you can grab the free guide below and you can always DM on social if you have questions. I am in this with you, Lovie, and can’t wait to hear how setting healthy boundaries radically changes your life.
Until next time, remember, I am in it WITH you, always,
Are you ready to set healthy boundaries?
Use the link below to download your free Boundary Setting guide
and start setting healthy boundaries today.