The topic of boundaries has been swirling around me for the last few weeks. Overall, setting and observing boundaries are a general part of the human condition, the trick is making the effort to be conscious of the process and to find the courage to honor both our own boundaries and those of others.
We can all recall a time in our life where we felt disrespected or taken advantage of, in these situations its easy to blame the person doing the disrespecting and leaving it at that. It is important to recognize that interactions and relationships involve at least two people, so when something goes awry it is often not as simple as blaming one and standing innocent on the receiving end. Maybe you let a friend borrow your favorite sweater, with emphasis on borrow and fully expecting this person to give it back. Weeks, maybe months passed and your sweater has disappeared into the ether. You gently remind your friend, maybe throw some hints on how you want that special sweater back, but nothing. This person has disrespected your agreement and often times in friendships you opt to let it go instead of losing your friend along with the sweater. So what happens next time this person asks to borrow something? Maybe you’ll set a new boundary, and now you don’t believe in letting them borrow anything again,. You can respond with “I’ll just tell you where I bought it (so you can get your own)” or “here, just have it”. You are not a library. More often than not, a violation of our boundaries shows us our weakness in setting the expectation of how we wish to be treated. It also shows us the kind of parameters we need to set with specific people.
So much of life is cause and effect, learning better and doing better, falling down and getting back up. I believe in the good in people, that there is more good than bad in most people. But I also lock my car and home, I don’t freely give out personal information, as much as I may trust people, I recognize that keeping myself safe is generally my responsibility. Boundaries are clearly outlining where another person ends and you begin.
So where do we start? Boundaries are contingent on two things: your confidence and your values. First determine your values; these can look like key words that hold value in your life. Things such as honesty, transparency, solitude, equality, fun. These words then translate over into activities that reflect your values such as; clear communication even when it’s hard, time spent with loved ones, contributing money/time to charity, time alone, etc. Values are also rooted in how you self care, the time you allow for yourself and how you choose to intake or expel energy. I’ve noticed there are overlaps in values and love languages, so I recommend taking a quiz on those if you’re feeling stuck. Also, taking a quiz to help you determine your core values is a good starting point.
Embody your confidence.
You will need to feel confident in order to speak your truth and declare what you will and will not tolerate and set your boundaries. Confidence is not found or earned. Confidence comes from the radical self acceptance of who you are, not apologizing for your existence, recognizing that you are not your past failures, and giving yourself the freedom to change your mind. Confidence is knowing who you are, even if what you know is still evolving, because our learning is never ending. Confidence is accepting that perfection is a myth and you, as well as everyone else, are a work in progress. You are enough.
People will push your boundaries if you do not outline them. I see this often in the service industry, independent hairdressers normally take deposits and setup policies to keep the funds if the client is a no-show. They are protecting their most valuable money making asset; their time. Establishing a clear cancellation policy enables them to stay profitable. In the design industry we often meet clients who pay for one service and then expect add-ons to be free. I visit job sites regularly and it’s not uncommon that as soon as they learn that I’m a trained interior designer they ask for my input on paint colors. I gently let them know that I offer a color consultation and I’d be happy to get them on my calendar. I do not work for free. This is why contracts are key, they outline what services or amount of time they are paying for, making it clear that anything outside of these outlined services will incur additional fees.
Get comfortable in saying no.
Boundaries are not limited to what you set between yourself and others. Setting boundaries for yourself is also part of the process. My favorite advice around this is on venting. We all have bad days. Shitty things happen to people everyday. We all know one person who is “always getting screwed over” their jobs are “always taking advantage of them” or they find themselves in the same bad relationship with different people, you know this because it’s their main topic of conversation every time they talk to you. It is ok to vent your frustration, however, limit yourself to one vent per situation. If you continue to share your story of this awful thing that happened to you, you’ll be living in this negative energy and unconsciously calling in more of the same. You have the right to stop this chatter too, you don’t have to be sounding board for other people’s problems. There are trained therapists who get paid to listen to people’s problems, you don’t have any responsibility to be anyone’s untrained and unpaid therapist. Understanding that talking about things you don’t like calls in more of the same is reason why positive affirmations work. Affirmations, intentions, words are what makes up your thoughts and headspace. Your thoughts may live inside you but when they become words you are speaking them into existence.
Ask yourself. What thoughts make up your head space? Why? Are those your thoughts or are they someone else’s opinion that’s rolling around in your head? Are you storytelling? When the same thoughts roll around in your head day in and day out, they become your norm. Use this to your advantage rather than your downfall. It is unfortunately our programmed default to say or think things like “There’s never enough time in the day” or “Why do I never have enough money”. Stop it. Try flipping these negatives and watch your life change, “I am so good at making the most out of the time in my day”, “Why do I always have extra money”. It may feel silly at first, this is your mind deprogramming.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by respecting yourself and retraining your thought patterns. People who truly love you and care about you will respect your boundaries, anyone who responds in anger or frustration in response to your boundaries was probably benefitting from your lack of establishing them. Make these choices from your heart, affirm that it’s for your highest good.
If this is new or comfortable for you, stay strong and give yourself grace in this process.