Boundaries: What are they, How to figure them out, And feel good about standing your ground:
You start your day off on a strong note—You’ve meditated, prayed for a good day, and repeated your morning affirmations: You’re set to face the day.
A client calls “Hey, I was wondering if I could cancel our meeting this afternoon and reschedule for tomorrow”
Although you thought your morning practices buffered your confidence and strength—you find yourself wavering.
Actually, there’s no doubt: you feel your body sink and think “This client is not worth the headache” Yet you smile through the phone lines “Sure, no problem, what time would you like?”
Sound at all familiar?
This kind of scenario can pop up in work or relationships. Saying yes when you want to say no.
At the root of it all is healthy boundaries.
What are boundaries?
The space between where you end and another begins.
The space between what feels good and what feels like you’ve been trampled on.
Boundaries often need to be stated, and it can be summed up easily by this quote from Dr. Phil McGraw:
“You teach people how to treat you”
Life is full of two-year olds trying to step one foot closer to getting what they want, how they want it, and when they want it. It’s not necessarily ill-meaning, but we all have a different barometer of what’s considered “too much” and for many people—if given permission, they’ll step as close as they can to the boundary line.
That’s why it’s your responsibility to:
- Decide where’s your border (what’s too much/feels like you’re being trampled on)
- Practice saying no (which is the same as saying YES to you and your inner guidance of what’s right)
- Practice feeling good with your decision
When any of those 3 staples of boundaries are missing, you’ll end up feeling like a piece of you just fell to the ground. If you don’t take time to figure out your borders you might get in the habit of saying no when really you feel like something is a “yes!” or alternatively you’ll always be saying yes and then be filled with resentment by over-filling your schedule.
Once you know your border, saying no can take practice.
And ultimately, the most important thing is to feel good about your boundaries. This last piece of the recipe for healthy boundaries is a tough one.
There are two ways to go about this:
- Focus on confidence
Confidence is self-trust. Trusting in who you are and trusting your decisions. Trusting the inner voice that tells you where your boundary is. Confidence is love. Confidence is care. Confidence is knowing you deserve to be here—you deserve to have a voice and opinion. You are worthy. Confidence is owning your right to be here. Confidence is saying YES to you (which invariably can mean saying no to another)
Confidence is owning your inner guidance that helps you make the right choices from the inside—choices that respect your boundary.
- Recognize that the other person will continue on about their day.
Trust that the other person can take care of themselves and find their way. Let them work it out. It’s not on you.
If you say no to the client who cancels last minute, they may be let-down for a moment, let them deal with that. Soon enough they will go back to their day (You might be surprised and find out they don’t need to cancel after all! Sometimes it’s just a boundary dance. When you’re clear about your boundaries, the other person will then be able to decide the next step)
I’d like to end this article with an 8-step process to setting boundaries and feeling good about them:
- Become aware of your personal boundaries. Some you’re already aware of. Others, you may not know until the moment they get tested. Awareness is the first step.
- Become aware of how you feel from other people’s requests. Feeling is a wonderful barometer of when your boundaries are being tested. Any time you feel a sinking feeling: it’s a sure sign to say no.
- The next time you get a request that leaves you with a sinking feeling—delay. Tell the other person you need some time to think about it.
- Now that you’ve delayed, you’ve given yourself the space you need to get clear on the other person’s request. And as you think about it: if it continues to leave you with a sinking feeling, then do this practice: Take a moment to ground your feet, take a few deep breaths, so that you can say no from a place of grounded confidence.
- Begin practicing saying no, even if at first it feels uncomfortable. As you say no, stay grounded through your feet to help you feel anchored.
- Remember that the other person will get on with their life. Trust in them to figure out a solution.
- Be aware with how you feel after saying no. If you feel a bit bad: that’s normal – it’s the withdrawal of years of never wanting to let anybody down. But remember that saying yes when you mean no is letting yourself down.
- Be kind to yourself, and go do something active to shake off any residue from the experience. Recognize that saying no is a practice—and the boundary muscle will strengthen over time, and it will strengthen you: this is how your confidence grows.
Now I’d love to hear from you: what’s your favorite tip on setting healthy boundaries? And do you have a story to share about saying no, and how you overcame the need to please? Please share in the comments below: your story can help inspire others
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