How to Create Healthy Boundaries to Live Life on Your Terms
Many of us are busy professionals and pulled in 1,000 different directions each day. Our responsibilities of leading a company or division fill most of our days. Add to that the obligations of being a wife and a mom and many of us are running on empty.
We must set clear and distinct boundaries. It’s hard for us to say “no” to the needs of others and we often end up giving more of ourselves than we want. This can lead to feelings of anger and resentment.
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Why are boundaries important?
Boundaries set the stage for what you are and are not willing to do. It’s the line in the sand where you stop and someone else begins. According to Dr. Tracy Hutchinson, it is essential to have personal boundaries in order to have healthy relationships. Personal boundaries are important because they set the basic guidelines of how you want to be treated.
Types of Boundaries:
The people around you can interfere in your life on many levels. We had a client whose husband had a lot of energy in the morning and tended to crowd her space from sunup to sundown. She felt overwhelmed by his exuberance, as she on the other hand, preferred to ease into her day. She realized physical boundaries were needed to honor her own individuality.
We can become emotionally burdened by the “stuff” or problems of others. Sometimes it can feel like a “dump truck” of someone pulling up to you and just dumping all their stuff.
People like to be seen, heard, loved and valued and this is important but it’s not a license for someone to just go on and on and you’re left to pick up the pieces.
It’s your responsibility to set the stage for how you want to be treated. People will do what you allow. Don’t try to change the other person. Setting healthy boundaries is always your responsibility.
I remember, many years ago, when my sister, who has three beautiful daughters was overwhelmed. She put a sticky note on her kitchen cabinet that said “nothing will change until I change”. And it was true. As soon as she started making changes, the dynamics in the whole house changed as others started to adjust.
Setting Boundaries in Motion:
Boundaries are not walls with you in and everyone else out. By creating healthy boundaries, you may actually promote other people’s growth.
Boundaries are also not set in stone forever. They will adjust as the circumstances in your life change. Different seasons in your life will call for varying boundaries with different people.
Create a Vision:
Taking the time to create a solid vision of how you want to look and feel the healthiest and best self is a crucial foundation.
When our clients meet with their health coach for the first time, they become clear about what relationships are most important in their lives. They discuss how they look at their best self in all areas of their lives as a mom, wife, leader, and simply as a human.
Without that clear vision it’s easy to let the world and other’s intentions take over as you simply haven’t defined what to say ‘yes’ to and what’s not part of your vision.
Brainstorm where boundaries are needed:
Sit down with a notepad and pen and write down all the areas that feel overwhelming. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. “Where do I need healthy boundaries?”
2. “Where am I giving my power away?”
3. “With whom do I walk on eggshells?”
Bringing awareness to those areas is vital. Without it you don’t even get a chance to say ‘no’ to others as you already said ‘yes’ before considering your options.
The Top 5 Steps to Setting Clear Boundaries
1. Learn to be okay when others are not okay.
Women are natural nurturers who want others to feel loved and accepted. For some it’s just instinct, for others it goes even further with feelings of disappointment if we can’t make others happy. Unconsciously you may try to gain acceptance by serving others.
The key is awareness. Pay attention to the moments you lose yourself and give into something you really did not want to do. Ask yourself in that moment why you said yes. Listen to your intuition and feelings to understand your true motivations.
Knowing the deeper meaning gives you the true source of what you want to work on. You may consider journaling on what comes up as you delve deeper into the reasons behind your behavior.
2. Learn the art of saying ‘no.”
If you’ve always fulfilled all the wishes of those around you, saying ‘no’ can be hard at the start. A few good phrases that you may want to practice are “No, but thanks for asking” or “No, but thanks so much for thinking of me”. “I don’t have the bandwidth for this, but thanks for considering me.”
Again, this can be difficult at the onset since people are used to you saying “yes” but you will begin to feel greater empowerment as you exercise this muscle of simply saying “no.”
You might feel inclined to say “I can’t”, but often that leads to the other person trying to brainstorm ways to overcome the reasons you can’t. It’s not a matter of not being able to do something, but rather one of not being willing to.
3. Allow others to succeed.
As you begin to say “no” to certain tasks or things you are not willing to do, others will start figuring out alternative solutions for themselves. You’re actually promoting their growth and autonomy.
Your children can benefit most from working through challenges on their own but with your guidance. Let them know you believe in them and offer your feedback to their proposed solutions if asked.
4. Remain silent.
This can be a powerful strategy for multiple reasons. For one, not reacting right away gives you the space to bring awareness to your thoughts and feelings. In that time, you can consider your options. If you find that you don’t want to say “yes” or simply don’t have the capacity, you can be reassured you took the time to think it through.
The other reason silence can be golden is because the person asking often doesn’t have the patience to wait and therefore will ask someone else. They might also start brainstorming ideas how they could do it themselves. Try it as an experiment and see what you uncover. Also, in a group environment sometimes others will jump in to offer their support.
5. Consider a “Giving Fast.”
One of our health coaches was so committed to setting healthy boundaries that she did a “Giving Fast” for two weeks. She informed her husband and kids of her intention to practice saying ‘no’ and that they should expect her to say “no” to their requests.
That may sound harsh but her motivation was (and she shared this with her family) to create greater awareness for how easily she jumps in to fulfill other people’s needs, sometimes at her own expense. The fast also established appreciation from those around her for all the things they expected her to do on a daily basis that they ultimately could do themselves.
Hopefully this helps to set the stage to start creating healthy boundaries in your personal and professional relationships. Our JOYVIAL executive health coaches are ready to assist you in creating, establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.
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