Updated: Jul 6
Do you feel bad when you're trying to set boundaries?
I mean, you know there are some areas where the scales are WAY out of whack - and you know it could be better.
But that whole confrontation thing! 🙅♀️🙅♀️🙅♀️
Maybe it's an overly packed calendar. You know it's not sustainable but you can't seem to figure out how to catch a breath. So you keep kicking the can down the road. Maybe you'll feel refreshed and clearer after your vacation next week.
Or an in-law that criticizes the way you hang your hand towels or your lack of discipline when your kids start acting crazy. You know, acting like kids.
You tell yourself, well, she's only here for a week. I'll just grin and bear it until she leaves.
And sometimes it's really close to home. Your spouse keeps spending and spending and spending. It's for fun trips and adventures for great memories - YOLO, right? But you know there's a consequence to this and it's STRESSING you out.
At their core, boundaries are all about who we give power to. Communicating your boundaries is the KINDEST thing you can do for yourself and for others.
So how do you set boundaries gracefully? Or if you can't seem to stick with them, try these 3 tips:
IDENTIFY THE BOUNDARIES YOU NEED TO SET First you can separate them by hard boundaries (non-negotiables) and soft boundaries (aspirational), as defined by Harvard Business Review. For instance, a hard boundary might be that you are never going to take a work meeting during family dinner time. You won't break it under any circumstance and it falls into the category of an unreasonable request. A soft boundary might be something that has other variables or other people required to collaborate with. In other words, they are goals you want to reach but can be flexible around them. For example, if you want to wake up at 4:30am to work out but sometimes your body really needs the extra sleep after that fun night out catching up with friends, take the sleep and don't beat yourself up if you don't. It makes it easier to be grounded in your values when you separate them into hard and soft boundaries. This can be anything from work hours, preference in communication (text over phone call anyone?), how you like to receive feedback (I always reinforce with my kids in social situations - you teach people how to treat you); social etiquette, etc.
2. TEST OUT ONE HARD BOUNDARY Now that you understand what your priorities are, it's time to set one hard boundary. Consider this an experiment in that you are testing the waters. This might look like limiting tasks, interactions, or activities that are not the best use of your time. For example, who are the people you surround myself with? Are they people that bring out your best or do you inadvertently feel like a POS or get way up in your head? It's important to be intentional about the people you spend time with and protect your energy.
3. PRACTICE A FEW SOFT BOUNDARIES This is where it gets fun. Now that you've set the hard boundary and have discovered more confidence, better-protected energy, and self-respect, let's look at strengthening this muscle even more. Think about the habits or practices that you'd like to change, but it's not terribly urgent. For instance, if you want to get better sleep, maybe that looks like cutting out the cup of coffee after lunch or limiting social media to 1 hour during the day. Or maybe it looks like leaving work 1-2x a week during lunch to go work out and not feeling guilty about it.
Setting boundaries is hard at first but it gets easier. And there's a big payoff on the other side that makes it worth it.
I had a situation recently where I finally had to be very clear on establishing a boundary with someone who had been close to me. It was weird and uncomfortable - but I took great care to be respectful and thoughtful. And after a day of ruminating and second-guessing my candor, I could literally feel strength and empowerment come rushing in and gave me so much energy to put more boundaries in place in other areas.
What I learned is that the resentment that I had harbored prior to addressing it was taking away my own power. And was THE clear signal I needed to set a boundary.
And remember, boundaries are all about who we give power to.
Once you clear away what you don't need, and what robs you of your energy, you make room to RECEIVE and RESTORE.
When you are aligned and have established proper parameters for how people are allowed to treat you, what you want is attracted to you.
Try these 3 tips today - and let me know how it works for you! I LOVE hearing about your wins out in the wild.
Oh, and if you haven't already, listen to the latest Late Learner podcast episode about what to do when you don't feel like you measure up.
P.S. Would you rather implement this WITH other growth-minded folks and get a quick win immediately? Join the BOLD challenge. It's free. It's four days. Four easy prompts. Super effective. Go from over-functioning to audaciously aligned.
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