As we approach the ending of the last month, of the last year of this decade...let’s do ourselves a big favor ladies. Let’s not go into this new decade having our lives hijacked by others because we find it difficult to stop them from crossing the line, when it comes to how we allow them to treat us. If you truly want to be your best you, and have a happy, healthy, stress free life, you need to learn (now) how to set boundaries (and keep them).
Boundaries are simply a set of rules put in place, that lay out what should or shouldn’t be done or limits that define acceptable behavior. In other words, it’s being very clear and concise about what your limits are, and what you will or will not accept. Boundaries are necessary to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed and overextended by the demands of other people. Without them, you’re likely to become exhausted, stressed out, and resentful. So it’s up to you (to not only set) but maintain your boundaries, because you’re the only one responsible for your happiness and well being. No one else can do this for you.
With that being said, I’ve listed below some simple, but effective ways you can immediately put into practice to help you create and keep healthy boundaries:
Learn to say “no”
If you find it hard to say no, and it’s starting to affect your well being, you need to stop, regroup and figure out why you find this difficult to do. Never allow anyone to hold you hostage. Learn (now) how not to make promises or commitments because someone puts a demand on you or puts you on the spot. A simple rule I like to follow is to always tell people you’ll get back with them. This way, the pressure is off of you and it gives you time to think about the situation and determine if it’s something you’d even consider committing to or not. Besides, you never want to give people the impression that you won't keep your word and taking your time allows you to weigh your options so you won't get yourself in a bind.
Know your limits
Knowing yourself is the key to creating and maintaining good boundaries. Know your emotional, mental, and physical limits. Figure out what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed and what makes you feel good. I have my coaching clients do a powerful, but simple exercise that helps them identify what they’re tolerating and how to put a stop to it. I have them make a list of their values and principles. And these are just simply things you want when it comes to your interactions with others. It's important though, that your values and principles resonate with you, bring you peace, and bring you joy. Once you’ve made your list and really gotten it down in your spirit, do this. Whenever someone presents you with a situation that doesn’t quite sit right with you...take your list and filter that situation through it. In other words, you’re going to check to see if their actions pass your values and principles test. And we usually know when someone has crossed the line, but because most of those people are close to us, we can get intimidated. But that's okay, because this exercise gives you more validation and the boldness to take action to put a stop to it, because you’ve got solid factual evidence right in front of you, showing you exactly where they've overstepped the boundaries. (If you’d like to go more in depth with this exercise, consider working with me in one of my programs here.)
Learn how to read your feelings
When trying to figure out exactly what and where your limits are, you’re more than likely going to feel a range of different emotions. But two key emotions that signal your boundaries are being crossed, are resentment and discomfort. And if you feel you’re being taken advantage of or not appreciated, that’s a clear sign you’re being pushed beyond your limits, and it’s time to make your boundaries known again and start saying no. This will become much easier to do once you’ve made and established a set of values and principles (as previously mentioned) for your life that you won’t allow anyone to cross.
Give yourself permission to enforce your boundaries
It’s okay to say no. In fact, it’s absolutely necessary for your self-respect, to maintain your boundaries and refuse an unwelcome request. There is no room for guilt, condemnation, or self-doubt in this for that matter. In actuality, having clear boundaries and sticking to them is not selfish at all, it’s self(care). In considering yourself first, you’re ensuring that you’ll have the energy to do the things you want to do, with who you want to do them with. But most importantly, it empowers you to be there for people when they need it and when its right for you.
Be clear and upfront about what you’re willing to negotiate on
Know what you need to stay happy, healthy, and at peace whether it’s your designated time with the Lord, a daily walk, a gym session, a morning coffee break, etc. Make it clear that these are non-negotiable parts of your daily schedule. Having things you won’t negotiate on makes it easier to enforce your boundaries. Also, be clear and upfront with others about what you will and will not do. For example, you can tell your family that you won’t be hosting the holiday party this year, but that you will contribute food or drinks if they'd like you to. Being clear and direct about your boundaries leaves no room for misunderstanding, doubt, guilt, or bargaining. No one is confused and everyone is on the same page.
When you're clear about your boundaries, you don’t need an explanation, justification, clarification, or permission from your parents. It is, what it is. You're making the call, because you've already established the rules. Be direct and leave it at that. No explanations are needed. Of course, be polite and kind about it, but in the end, it’s okay to just say no and stick to your boundaries. Even Jesus was direct in His approach to this in Matthew 5:37 (AMP), "But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no' [a firm yes or no]; anything more than that comes from the evil one".
Speaking of Jesus, following His example for setting boundaries is the wisest thing to do. He rested when He needed to, He never let anyone rush Him, and He never let anyone think they were entitled to Him because He was Jesus. In Mark 4:38, He was resting during what the disciples might have thought was ’the storm of the century’. They woke Him from His rest, but instead of pandering to their needs, He rebuked them for disturbing His sleep (and of course for not using their faith). And in John 11:6, after hearing that Lazarus had died, instead of rushing over, He took, not one, but two whole days before going to see him, regardless of what anyone else thought or had to say. And in Matthew 12:46-50, although His mother and brothers thought they were entitled to His time because they were family, He never gave into them, but instead...totally ignored them. So, if you’re still skittish about setting healthy boundaries for yourself, take your cue from Jesus and know that as He walked this earth (as the Savior), even He knew the importance of setting boundaries and making sure everyone respected them.
I’ve laid out a few simple techniques you can start using today, however, let's be clear; in order for them to actually work, before you put a demand on others to treat you better, you’ve got to first put a demand on yourself. How you ask? By challenging yourself - that you'll never allow others to go there with you. This allows you to never have to demand anyone to treat you with respect again...because you've already established the boundaries, first and foremost with yourself and then with others. And yes, this may take some time, but the more you practice it, the bolder you’ll become at implementing it in your life. And if others make the choice to cross that line, then you'll have to decide if you want to cut ties or keep them around. If you follow these tips and stick to them, you’ll ensure that your holiday season and the upcoming new year will be less stressful and more productive.
*I'm so excited to announce that starting next year, I will be hosting my new podcast, the "Doing You Well" podcast. You can access it here. Stay tuned!
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