As Brene Brown shares, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”
Discussions around boundary-setting are commonplace in my practice. I work with clients and organizations either struggling to set them, struggling to keep them, or constantly pushing them (including, but not limited to, my own children!). Boundaries are a component of mental health, a way for individuals or organizations to protect, respect and love themselves through limits they’ve created.
How do you know when you need to set a boundary? Think of them as protective barriers around the things that are important to you. What’s important to you oftentimes stems from your values. It’s time to consider setting a boundary when what’s important to you may be or has been violated in some way.
And yet, boundaries are difficult to set because of the fear that you’ll disappoint others or hurt their feelings. And you may. However, establishing limits is self-respecting and natural. How others react to those limits is about them, not you. Harvard Business Review states that “at their core, boundaries are all about who we give power to.” (https://hbr.org/2022/04/a-guide-to-setting-better-boundaries) Setting boundaries is a form of self-care, self-respect, self-love and mental health. If you don’t decide when to stop checking email, when to have guests in your home and how to honor your personal values and needs, then who does?
Those who violate your boundaries often do so because their values don’t align with yours. Remember, the boundaries you set will likely make someone else uncomfortable. That is ok. Boundaries are not meant for others’ comfort. If someone dislikes a boundary you’re setting, they get to choose to either respect it, risk damaging the relationship by pushing it, or end the relationship all together. Your boundaries are about YOU, not someone else’s expectations of you.
Think of your boundaries like a gate. You get to decide when to open the gate and when to close the gate. You get to decide when to leave the gate cracked, even. When boundaries are repeatedly pushed or even broken, here’s what typically happens. Either you lose steam (and begin allowing someone to push the limits you’ve set, succumbing to what you know doesn’t serve you) or you harden the barrier (and lock them out entirely, maybe even permanently). Both cases can be exhausting and breed resentment. The choices aren’t always easy. But oftentimes, as the saying goes, the most difficult things are the ones most worth doing.
Do you struggle to set and keep boundaries? Start with a small one that you can commit to, NO MATTER WHAT. Show your brain what it’s capable of and watch how boundary-setting gets easier. No one will give you permission to set your own boundaries but you.