Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept. – Anna Taylor
There’s something which I find happens quite often to me. I’m happily living and loving life when a person asks a favour, wants me to be responsible for something, go some place, do some thing, delegate a task they don’t want to do to me. This is life, right? We should expect this is going to happen. It’s how we interact. The issue comes only when it’s something I DON’T want to do. Maybe i’m super busy, maybe I just don’t want to, maybe I feel uncomfortable doing the thing. And that’s cool. It’s easy to say no… Except for when I can’t bring myself to say no and I say yes and it’s overwhelming and it’s stressful and it’s making me miserable and it’s just not loving to me. Ever been there? Wishing you’d just had the guts to say no. I used to feel this way all the time and still do when someone sneaks past my boundaries without me noticing and pounces on me like a thief in the night.
About a year ago I had to come to terms with the fact that I quite literally had zero boundaries when it came to people asking me to do stuff for them. I was the girl working late past her shift to help out, the one taking on things that I had absolutely nothing to do with and which I knew nothing about, the one letting others take and take until I had nothing left to give. Unhealthy. I see it now and don’t we all realise when we look back in hindsight how wrong certain situations were?! A point arrived in the last year or two where I took a long hard look at everything in my life and it was then that I had to admit, I’d let a lot of people in that weren’t the best for me. I’d allowed them to take advantage and I swear most of them didn’t realise they were doing it, just thought I was being kind, but as the saying goes… ” Give an inch; take a mile.”
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. – Maya Angelou
The process of re-evaluating people in my life and beginning to set boundaries taught me some harsh lessons, in particular to quit listening to who people say they are and to only pay attention to how they act. If you did this alone I’m pretty sure your friends list would shrink, but the quality of friends would rise. Learning that you get to choose who is in your life and who is not, is powerful.
Your Inner Compass
Put simply, your boundaries are made up of what you say yes or no to, what you are ok with and not ok with. The most essential tool for navigating your boundaries in all circumstances is your yes/no compass, what I’ve imaginatively named (ha!) your Inner Compass.
Imagine an ordinary compass, but instead of the usual North, East, South, West the needle swings between only two points: Yes and No. Broken down into its truest form, your Inner Compass is your gut instinct. It provides you with the simplest form of guidance you can get. No whys or hows or whens. Just a pure yay or nay. It has one single purpose: to take care of you. Listening to your gut is easier said than done. I know I had trouble discerning what my gut was telling me until I began to visualise this Inner Compass; it really helped. I no longer felt the need to explain why it was a no; it was just a no. No is a complete sentence.
When you start playing with your boundaries and begin to come into alignment with your Inner Compass, others often find it difficult to handle. People just don’t like being told no. Boundary setting unleashes emotions in others, usually anger or disappointment, but their reaction isn’t yours to own and it’s important to understand that how they react is not a reflection on you.
Setting boundaries is something that happens over time. You’ll bump into situations throughout life where you’ll need to draw a line in the sand over how you expect to be treated. Here’s how I like to go about it:
- Ask yourself how you feel. Get present. Like REALLY present when someone asks you a question. It can be tough to do in the moment so when the pressure’s on, it’s ok to leave the situation. Say, “Let me think it over and I’ll get back to you”, take some time to think about it.
- Have previously thought about what you will and won’t do. Focus on this. What’s not acceptable to you? How do you want to be treated? What makes you feel good?
- Get in tune with your Inner Compass / gut instinct. The more you use it the easier it gets.
- Understand that setting boundaries doesn’t mean you don’t like the other person. It means you like yourself!
- Be ok with saying no. Saying no is hard. You might be worried about letting others down or that they won’t like you anymore, but it doesn’t have to be done in a horrible way. Believe it or not you can say no and still be a nice person…
- Make yourself a priority. I’ve come to learn that boundary setting is one of the highest forms of self-care. Put you first. Choose what serves you. Make a choice about what you will spend your precious time and energy taking part in.