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The Art of Setting Boundaries

Updated: May 18, 2021

I believe it was the Buddha who said...

"If it's not a F*ck Yes!...then it's a No"

...or definitely someone Buddha-adjacent.

There is a certain beauty and wisdom that comes with not being able to control everything. That being said, as a human moving through this world you are certainly allowed to hold expectations of how others treat you...and what kind of treatment you'll accept! The above quote somewhat cheekily reflects that you should be ▒wildly enthusiastic▒ about the activities you engage in and the people you interact with.

Why is this important?

Without established boundaries, you could be left feeling drained, anxious, or stressed on a day-to-day basis. Completing routine tasks can become taxing, without you really understanding why. Healthy boundaries bring about a higher sense of self worth, less expenditure of emotional energy, and more independence. You are able to release anger and resentments and even have greater compassion for others.

Being positive does not mean saying YES all the time! Self-care is so much more than bubble baths and fresh manicures. So here are ╚ 7 ╗ tips to get you on your way to establishing your boundaries.

Release Guilt

You may have a hard time setting boundaries because you feel an innate sense of guilt at inconveniencing other people or making them feel uncomfortable. This voice of guilt that is whispering to you is NOT your intuition and it is FALSE. It can be hard to discern true intuitive thought from negative self-talk without practice, because both try to speak to you in your own voice. We feel this twinge of guilt because it has been ingrained in us. As children, we were incentivized to obey and comply (for safety and security), and the habit stuck around. I don't know about you, but my school didn't offer a "Self Esteem" course as I traversed those awkward adolescent years. Unless you're lucky enough to be surrounded by some pretty self-aware individuals, there is often a gap where this lesson should arise. A healthy guilt response should kick in when you actually do something wrong and need to correct or make amends for a mistake. Conversely, setting standards for other people to respect you is about your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being -- and there is nothing indulgent or selfish about that!

Check In With Yourself

Sit in stillness to contemplate what resonates with you. Journaling can be a great tool for answering open-ended prompts and sorting out your thoughts. If you're reading this, you already know I'm going to say that floating can provide the perfect environment for processing and analyzing your personal baseline. Even if you find yourself with some extra time in the car, take a few minutes to turn the radio down and really think. How would you know what your boundaries are if you don't ask? They should be aligned with what is important to you.

You could start by asking yourself these questions:

In which specific areas of my life should I be setting boundaries?

→ With family & friends?

→ In my professional circles?

→ With romantic partners?

Who are the people I am constantly giving to?

→ Do they reciprocate in my times of need or does it seem like they are constantly taking?

→ Are they showing regard for my well-being?

Are these interactions that I'm allowing aligned with my vision?

→ For my life right now?

→ With my goals for this year?

Actually Set the Boundaries

Once you have realized what limits you want to put in place, its time to flex that muscle. You can put parameters in place in advance or even figure them out as you go along. Take the framework that you've started to gather from the work you did in the previous steps, and lay it like a cipher over your choices going forward. It will feel awkward at first, but I promise that it will get easier - even enjoyable! Its okay to start small. For instance, a lot of our communication these days is written -- via text or email. Get in the habit of proofreading the messages your sending out • Am I being direct?

• Am I being clear?

• Have I agreed to something or extended myself in a way that's going to make me feel bad later?

• Am I being represented in a way that's authentic to myself?

I realized that I had a way of using self-effacing & diminutive language in my professional emails. Before sending, I have gotten in the habit of revising them to ensure I get my point across respectfully and directly.

If someone asks you something on the spot, get in the habit of saying "Let me think about that, and I'll get back to you." You deserve some time to process and check in with yourself if you don't know in that moment. Take the time you need to respond to people. You actually DO NOT have to answer calls / texts / emails / Tinder notifications [definitely not those] right away. By refraining from constant rapid response, you show others that you respect your time, and encourage them to do the same.

Communicate Your Decisions

As you grow deeper into who you are and what you want, it will become more noticeable when those lines are crossed. Get in the habit of normalizing conversations where you discuss consent and expectations in all their forms! It's my heartfelt hope that you have at least one person in your life with whom you feel comfortable talking about your own boundaries. That person can be a great, safe space to practice using your voice. If you don't have someone you feel comfortable talking to, giving yourself a mirror pep-talk can get the words flowing. You could even reach out to me -- I'm happy to be your sounding board. The great thing about boundaries is that they are completely personal and sacred to you. You actually don't owe anyone an explanation on the guidelines you've chosen, but it makes it easier in certain situations if you communicate your preferences to those around you, and be receptive to their boundaries as well! If an acquaintance continually barrages you with an opinion you don't share, it is beneficial to say "I respect your right to an opinion, but I don't agree with you." or.. "I've set boundaries around this topic that my friends and family respect."... or "We can either discuss something else, or I'm going to go." The people that care about you WANT to know your boundaries and what is important to you. If someone persists in pressing you, it might be time to consider this next step..

Let Go

This is a biggie, and arguably, where a lot of the heavy lifting lies. Letting go can be PAINFUL. We aren't just talking about the overt bullies in your life. There can be subtle toxicity in relationships we thought were supposed to mean the most -

- That friend you've known for years. You used to share so much together, but its become apparent that you've grown in different directions. Mentally (or literally) thank them for the space they held in your life in that season, but know its time to step forward without them.

- A toxic family member - It seems to defy the rules of biology, but just because you were raised in a family, does not inherently mean that each member is biologically programmed to want what's best for you. They may not be capable of understanding where you are right now, nor know a way to love and respect you well. Family relationships are usually the most nuanced, so communicate what you need, and then step away if these interactions continue to violate your personal code.

- Former, Lingering, or Almost-Lovers - Sometimes you realize that what you thought was love was just an attachment that has grown unhealthy. Learn to recognize the difference. If a relationship is hurting your self-esteem or negatively impacting areas of your life, love yourself more than this person who is bringing you down, and disentangle yourself.

Give yourself permission to feel the grief of letting go of these people. It is tempting to seek out unhealthy distractions for the numbing effects, but the pain can carry important lessons. Sit with the heavy feelings and allow them to move through you. Release the feelings with a creative outlet, or by helping out someone else!

Get Excited Again!

Doing this internal shadow work can feel difficult, but it is meant to help you keep your life in alignment Karmically, living without boundaries takes a lot of time and energy away from living. Conversely, putting them in place frees energy up for more important things. Be hopeful for what you're making space for! Speaking your heart and mind is such a liberating form of honesty. That's what living with these boundaries really gives us - a path to honesty and authenticity, and more time and energy to engage in activities that are meaningful to ourselves and the world.

Repeat (Often!)

No explanation needed here. We are constantly changing, evolving, and taking in new information. Check in with yourself frequently and go through these steps as often as you like, giving attention to different facets of your life.

If it feels a little daunting, just know that you are not alone. Through writing this post, I found that I had hardly set or communicated ANY meaningful boundaries with the people in my life (whoops!). It is NEVER too late to start. I believe in you!

Feel free to leave a comment letting me know how you're doing on your own journey to setting boundaries. What have you found that has been helpful? What are some boundaries you have set? What setbacks have you encountered that you'd like to navigate around??

Thanks for reading!


PS: If you really feel like you have more work to do before you can implement these steps, check out the post on "Setting Goals & Intentions" as a good starting point.

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4 commentaires

Jake Voorhees
Jake Voorhees
17 mai 2021

The letting go part resonates w me quite a bit. It’s what Jeremy Gutsche talks about on the path to innovation - the willingness to destroy. And also Jim Rohn 5 person inner circle theory. Great post!

17 mai 2021
En réponse à

I just looked up Jim Rohn's work in Audible. WHOA. He has a ton of books!! Any suggestions on where to start with his work? I need to add a "Books I'm Reading" tab asap!

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