This week, I’ve found myself asking the same question over and over again. Why does no one give the same level of loyalty and effort that I give? I figured it was a good time to talk about something many of us do not do well: setting healthy boundaries.
You guys will probably see the topic of boundaries come up a lot. I talk about them a lot- in my work, with my friends, for myself. Mainly, I talk about the fact that we all need them and so few of us have them. Hell, most of us don’t even know what they are! I think we live in a society where we are constantly taking on more than our fair share. We live in a culture of excess, and success is measured by how busy we are, and we constantly feel unappreciated or taken for granted.
I know firsthand that women struggle with boundaries due to our social upbringing. (My suspicion is that men do too, but we have a less clear picture of that for them.) Women are taught to be responsible for the feelings of others because we are (supposedly) more capable of handling emotions. It’s our job to be nurturers at the expense of ourselves. We are expected to take care of all the things and keep on going. Oh, and don’t forget to make it look easy and tell everyone you’re “doing great; thanks for asking!” This is leading us to a mental health crisis. We are all spread so thin, all so stressed and anxious. We all need a nice, healthy dose of BOUNDARIES!
What are Boundaries?
I like to say that boundaries are like safety nets in our life and our relationships. Boundaries allow us to be true to who we are and take care of ourselves while still allowing us to love and care for our people. Even better, boundaries allow our people to know us more fully because we are more authentic when we have good boundaries. We show our true selves. When our people know us more fully, they can love us more completely, and our intimacy (emotional and otherwise) can reach unimaginable depths. How’s that sunshine and rainbows, eh?
So, let’s have a more specific definition, shall we? There are many different types of boundaries depending on the setting or the people involved. But, the definition of a boundary that I like the best is the one Brene Brown uses in this video. She says a boundary is simply “what’s okay for me and what’s not”. I take this a bit further and just ask, “What is mine to take on and what is not?”
I’ll break down the two types of boundaries I deal with the most over the next couple posts, but for now, let me give you a few examples of healthy and unhealthy boundaries at play.
Setting Boundaries… Or Not
I have a friend who implemented “Self-care Sunday” a couple years ago. He owns his own company and has a very busy work life. People have access to him every day of the week… except Sunday. He shuts off his phone and disconnects for the day, and he does whatever he wants. This is an awesome method of self-care. It’s also a great way to let his team know, “Contacting me for work today is not okay for me”. Sometimes when Monday rolls around, he has a few fires to put out, but turning off his phone for a whole day is a way that he doesn’t allow people to cross his boundary of needing time to take care of himself. Woo! Healthy boundaries for the win!
Another friend of mine is married to a great man. He is so great that he frequently goes out of his way to please others without being asked. He also struggles to say no when asked for help with things. My friend’s husband is a people-pleaser. His people-pleasing often leads him to get upset and feel taken advantage of. When people don’t appreciate his efforts or are irritated by his constant attempts to make things “better” or “right” he feels taken for granted. This is an example of not having good boundaries; he is taking on things that are not his responsibility. Being able to say no or refrain from solving every issue would be a step towards implementing healthy boundaries here.
Want to learn more about setting boundaries and how it impacts the intimacy in your relationship? Check out the boundaries questionnaire in my ebook The Intimacy Secret: Nurture Yourself and Connect with Your Partner