By: LUMO Leaders
It’s sixty degrees in North Carolina as I write this, and the advent of spring (down south, at least) has me thinking about newness. In this case, I’m talking about new habits; ones that conserve my limited energy, fill my cup, improve my relationships and help me get more done in half the time. You might be wondering if what I’m proposing is legal…it is, I swear. I’m talking about setting boundaries, my friends.
I am a busy woman. I’ve got a lot going on, and so do the clients we work with at LUMO. In general, we are working parents with demanding jobs and families we care deeply about. This means that we parents have to pay very close attention to our energy, because our energy is finite. If we spend it on things that are unimportant to us, we’ll run out of energy for the things that really matter. This is where boundaries come into play.
If you’ve struggled with boundaries in the past, good news! A few simple steps can make a huge difference for you.
4 Essential Steps to Creating and Maintaining Boundaries
1. Make Yourself #1
You know what this means – put yourself first. I know. It’s confronting. But this one is important, because boundaries work starts with us. We can’t ask other people to honor boundaries that we don’t honor ourselves.
Putting ourselves first means that we are actively identifying and meeting our physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Somewhere along the line we may have forgotten that we even HAVE needs; so we grind from one thing to the next and are subsequently surprised when we get sick/burn out/fall over. We are not robots; we are whole humans with a wide variety of needs – some obvious, like water and rest; some less so, like outside time, or laughter, or hugs. I need to be outside every morning when I walk my dog, or I get cranky. Putting myself first starts with noticing how much I need that walk, and then making sure I prioritize that time.
2. Trust is a Gift – Be Generous!
If you’re new to setting boundaries, trusting yourself through this process will feel tricky, and that’s ok. However, it’s a key piece of the puzzle – you must practice trusting yourself to know what is best for you, and trusting others to be great with you as you set new limits with them.
Trusting yourself may look like listening to your body when a situation makes you feel strange. It may look like noticing when you feel angry, or taken advantage of. That usually indicates that someone crossed a boundary you didn’t know you had.
A key factor in trusting others is believing that they will still care about you even if you set limits with them. The conversation might sound like, “Hey, I’m learning about how to set boundaries with others. I’m still new at it, but can I share what I’ve learned that I need so far?”
Trust me (see what I did there?!) – you’ll be shocked at how much setting limits with others actually improves your relationships!
3. Take Ownership
People often say to me how hard it is for them to have conversations about their boundaries without getting angry or emotional. While it’s understandable – resentment builds up when we don’t get our needs met – it’s also a sign that they probably haven’t taken a good hard look at their side of the street. We can get so focused on how we’ve been wronged by others that we forget that we allowed them to treat us this way in the first place.
Taking ownership starts by asking yourself questions like, “What have I done, or not done, that communicated to my boss that it’s ok to call me at 10pm?”, or “What have I said to my mom that made her think treating me this way is ok?”
Taking responsibility for how we’ve created a relationship is tough. It’s so much easier to blame everyone else! But blaming others leaves us stuck. That’s why we look at our side – so we can take our power back
4. Communicate, early and often (proactive boundaries)
When you’re in the work of establishing new boundaries, the last thing you want to do is wait for someone to cross them before you have a conversation. That’s just setting people in your life up for failure. Instead, think about teaching people how to be with you, in advance of the crucial moment. And it’s important to note that the communication must include your work from the previous point – ownership.
Say that your in-laws have always dropped by your house whenever they liked, and it was ok with you. But now you have a new baby, and their visits are a lot to handle. Communicating your new boundary might sound like:
“Hey, I know we’ve always had an open door policy, and that was completely fine in the past. However, with the new baby I’m realizing that I would really like you to call before you come by.”
Communicating in this way honors your needs, trusts that your in-laws can handle it, and takes responsibility for how you have interacted with them in the past. It’s direct and to the point. As Dr. Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind.”
In closing, friends, the last thing I must tell you is this:
It’s of the utmost importance that you BE GENTLE with yourself through this process. Play this mantra on a loop: “This is part of my learning process. It takes courage to take responsibility. I didn’t know better before, and now I do.”
You got this.
Want more? Here are some other blog posts you might be interested in.