I had one of my clients come in last week and tell me that she’s so annoyed and frustrated that her best friend is always 30 minutes late to everything - lunches, meetings, films, you name it. My client was understandably upset because she loves her friend, yet is unable to say anything expect feel frustrated, mad and on some level even resent her friend. My daughter had a similar issue in school. For the past 2 weeks her study buddy hasn’t been doing her share of the assignment leaving my daughter to pick up the slack. She’s a good friend of my daughter’s so nothing was said. For me for the past few months I’ve had a client who cancels her session the very last minute and that has been unprofessional and very frustrating for me.
These are just a few examples I can think about as I write now, but I’m sure you have many instances in your own life where you feel your boundaries have been violated by your boss, colleagues, family members and friends. So here’s the tricky part. Most of us want to have clear boundaries but don’t want to follow through on the consequence part. We don’t want to take action that we say we are going to take. That really is the most important part of the boundary because otherwise the boundary will not be taken seriously. In the case of my client - after we spoke about setting boundaries, she had to set her boundary by telling her friend that if she’s late another time, she would leave; in the case of my daughter, telling her friend that the next time she didn’t do the project, she would need to inform the teacher or in my case telling the client that I’ll be charging for the sessions missed.
These kinds of conversations and setting boundaries are often so difficult for so many people, so what do we do? We stay in these relationships, pretending and then wonder why our relationships aren’t deep, intimate or authentic. We pretend that everything is great but we don’t have conversations that really matter. We often end up blaming the other person for our lack of boundaries.
Henry Cloud in his book on Boundaries talks about the idea that if we have to love ourselves, we have to honour ourselves enough to tell the people in our life the truth and set boundaries. This is a really, really hard thing to do, but one that will help us live authentically. Henry Cloud says that setting clear boundaries are essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not. Boundaries impact all areas of our lives. Physical boundaries help us determine, who may touch and who may not us and under what circumstances. Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions. Emotional boundaries help us deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others.
I came across an excellent article on Psychology Today on Boundaries and I want to share an excerpt with you. The author shares her 3 top tips on setting healthy boundaries:
Take responsibility for yourself: This means to become aware, to develop the capacity for active conscious involvement, to know what needs to be done for yourself. By setting your own boundaries, you’re telling others how you want and expect to be treated; in other words, you are setting your limits about who can come into your space and what you expect of others once they’re there--- how you want to be spoken to, touched, and treated psychologically and emotionally. Whatever you say goes, no matter what others may think, feel, or believe. A corollary of this is that you are not responsible for the feelings, actions, and beliefs of others, or for the way they react to the boundaries you’ve set.
Don’t try to fix people: Fixing others is a way of trying to get love, attention, and/or validation. It’s a waste of your time and energy to try to fix them because, bottom line, they’re not interested in becoming any other way than they are. And the fact is you certainly don’t need fixing from self-serving people who want to tell you what to do and what’s good for you.
You are in charge of your choices: You have the right to change your mind or your direction at any time. You don’t need to feel that you owe anyone anything more than you want to give with your free and conscious heart. Anyone who mistreats you, is disrespectful of your wishes, refuses to hear you, and has no intention of changing is trouble with a capital T. Be ready to walk away without fear or guilt, and don’t look back.
Here’ a simple exercise for you to try this week. Step 1: Name your limits. If you don’t know what your limits or boundaries are, then how can you set them? Journal or write them down. Step 2: Tune into your feelings. Pick up a limit from your list and think of a time that was crossed. What happened? Who crossed that boundary and what did you feel? Write that down. Continue this step till you’ve gone through all limits in your list. Step 3: Start getting self-aware. Step 4: Give yourself permission to set boundaries the next time a limit is crossed. Step 5: Take action.
My friends, saying no and setting boundaries are really hard especially when it comes to people who are close to you. A boundary is not about trying to control someone else’s behaviour. It really is about managing yourself and your own self-care.
I’ll leave you with the quote from Dr. Brene Brown – “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”
I'm Poornima Nair, Certified Life Coach, NLP Practitioner and Founder of Live Authentic Coaching. If you are curious about coaching, interested in being nurtured, inspired and pushed to your edge, to discover and create the relationships, career, lifestyle, finances you are longing for, please reach out to me for a taster of what great coaching does to foster the clarity, mindset, qualities and skills that will allow you to breakthrough.