Boundaries, that old chestnut again. You see, I hear and use that word a lot because for so much of the work I do with women, boundaries are fundamental. To our wellbeing, our ability to perform well and our ability to prioritise what’s important to us.
Boundaries are all to do with the levels of comfort and space we feel comfortable with when we interact with other people, so they form the basis of healthy relationships with others in our personal, family and professional life. They’re relevant everywhere.
They can also be more challenging in certain areas of our lives than others. So you may find personal boundaries really easy to maintain but your work ones are shot and vice versa. There are many reasons why this happens but the most important factor is recognising where the challenges arise and dealing with making boundary setting an easier process.
Ultimately the key to setting successful boundaries is to set healthy ones that safeguard our mental health, establish our identity and define our individuality.
So why are they such a hot topic for women?
Well, women can find boundaries challenging. It’s one thing to recognise that we need them to feel good, but another to actually feel comfortable in setting them. Often setting a boundary involves the “no” word and for so many women who have been socially conditioned to please others and put others’ needs first, it can feel really uncomfortable. They can come with a whole stack of guilt especially if they involve children or bosses and on the whole, without them, can throw us into turmoil and burnout very quickly indeed.
But we are seeing that as much as they can can be uncomfortable they are necessary in order for us not just to thrive but to survive. Instances of burnout shot up over lockdown as women all over the world grappled with boundaries being thrown out of the window as they were expected to take on all manner of extra responsibilities at work and at home, with very little personal time being put on the agenda. As we slowly re-adjust to life post-covid, there has been a whole lot of re-thinking going on as we begin to realise just how important getting to grips with boundaries really is.
How do you know you’ve got a boundary issue?
So the first thing to do before you begin to tackle your boundaries is to work out where they’re being crossed. How do you know? Boundaries can come into play in so many ways. They can be:
Physical – maybe someone has invaded your personal space
Emotional – like when a friend emotionally dumps on you without your permission
Time – when your personal time gets taken away from you eg when your boss asks you to work late without notice
Intellectual – perhaps a co-worker openly disrespects your opinion
Material – someone borrowing something of yours and not returning it
(excerpts taken from “How to deal when someone in your life keeps overstepping boundaries by Brianne Hogan, www.scarymommy.com)
And how do you know yours have been crossed? Well there are a few clues…
- You’re doing so much and feeling exhausted
- You wish certain people would just back off and stop asking you for things
- You feel resistance when you agree to do something and wish you had just said no
- You bristle inside when you get asked to do the task you hate doing most
- You feel frustrated, annoyed or angry about a situation someone else is involved in but you’re not sure why
- You strongly feel in your gut that you should be doing something else instead of what you’re doing
- Some else’s behaviour really upsets you
So once you’ve identified where your boundaries have been crossed the next stage is working out what’s important to you, and what are your non-negotiables when it comes to your time, energy and personal respect. Make a list of what you hold dear, reflect and notice times when you feel crossed, and start, bit by bit, safeguarding your valuables by putting some boundaries around them.
Well how about we take a look at how a queen would act?
As a One of many certified coach, I do a lot of work with women using archetypes, to help them connect with their own personal power. The Queen is one of 5 archetypes that I use and she’s often the one that many women feel they need more of in order to step into the leadership of their own lives and careers. So let’s take a look at her and how she deals with boundaries.
We’re not talking divas and tiaras here. I mean a real queen, like our own Queen Elizabeth, a head of state, who makes decisions based on the good of others in her realm and sets clear boundaries with her vision and bigger picture in mind, realising her power can only work its magic if it’s safeguarded and treated with respect.
A queen gets boundaries and she likes them and she also has a great respect for other people’s. She understands her position, and knows that her health and wellbeing are essential for her to do her job properly with boundaries enabling her to keep those priorities on the agenda. She also has no guilt attached to boundaries because she knows exactly why she’s putting them in place and the good they will bring to everyone, not just her. She’s fair and when she says no she means it and she doesn’t back down.
Everyone knows the score. Everyone respects her.
When you understand that boundaries are good for everyone, then that feeling of people pleasing starts to feel less threatened. You can feel more comfortable in understanding that people, especially children, like to have structured rules in place so they know where they stand. That they will respect you for laying down your law and speaking your truth. The more honest you can be with someone as to why you’re putting a boundary in place the more you can help the other person understand why you’re doing it (not the same thing as making excuses to avoid the issue). Being clear and honest lies at the heart of good, effective boundary setting.
So how do you go about setting them in a queenly way?
Keep things simple and don’t over explain things:
- Identify the boundary you want to set
It doesn’t matter that in the past you have let it run wild. You can redefine it at any time. Because you are in charge.
- Say what you need
Again keep it simple and make it easy for the other person to understand. The more confusion there is the less likely you are to get acceptance.
- Don’t over explain it
State why if you want to but you don’t have to.
- Set consequences
These aren’t the same as threats and are there to be clear to the other person of the extent of your boundary
These are the foundations of setting healthy and successful boundaries, but for many of us they are a constant work in progress. When we have so many competing priorities for our time it can be a real juggle to work out where we want and need to be putting ourselves. By regularly checking in with ourselves, noticing when we’ve let them slip, and tuning into why we’re feeling frustrated or annoyed by something or someone, boundary setting can get so much easier once we start to make peace with them, pop on our crowns when the occasion calls and remind ourselves of the bigger picture implications that benefit as a result.
Please repeat after me…
I am not a bad person for telling others what I want and need.
I am a queen in charge of my own personal realm which is valuable to me and to others, and it is my duty to protect myself and those who reside within it.
I am setting boundaries for the greater good and when I’m good, everyone else is too.
So Your Majesty, those boundaries, are they feeling any better now?
Career Empowerment Coach
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