You planned on meditating this morning. Then your text notifications started dinging. The dishwasher needed to be unloaded. Your email inbox was overflowing. Your partner asked you to schedule an appointment. Your daughter needed her uniform washed for a game this afternoon. The dog needed his walk. Then you were late for work.
Believe it or not, we don’t have to be available for everyone, all the time.
Having clear and healthy boundaries is the driving force behind self-care. We are each in charge of protecting our own needs and energy outputs. There’s a myth that women believe, that we are supposed to do it all and do it perfectly. We fear the consequences to our relationships if we set boundaries. We fear being judged or of hurting someone’s feelings. So, we sacrifice ourselves for other people.
How could we know how to set boundaries? We didn’t get any instruction on this nor did we have this modeled for us.
There are many benefits to setting and holding clear and healthy boundaries:
Boundaries create healthy relationships where other people respect and care about your needs and feelings.
Boundaries increase your self-esteem and personal power.
Boundaries reduce stress, anxiety, overwhelm and fatigue.
Boundaries help establish and protect your identity as an individual.
Boundaries help you become a more understanding person, a better friend and partner.
Boundaries are crucial for our mental health and wellbeing.
Becoming a boundary ninja requires having the courage to love ourselves even when it means we might disappoint someone.
A boundary is the clear line that declares your truth – asking for what you need, making your own decisions based on what you want, saying “no” when you need to, standing up for yourself, and not feeling responsible for how someone else reacts or feels. It also means not sacrificing your needs to please someone else.
The myth about doing it all and doing it all well is pervasive with the women entrepreneurs I work with. These are women who are daughters, sisters, wives, friends, mothers, aunties, business owners and employers. A lot of people to potentially feel responsible for. These are women who have pushed themselves hard to create and I honor them for that. These are the women who are the change makers and the world needs them. These are also the women who tell me they ended up in the hospital on an IV because they got dehydrated. Or are working when they have a fever. These women know they need to meditate but they just cannot find the time (and then beat themselves up for it.) They take care of everyone and everything before they take care of themselves. And they rarely ask for help.
I know this pattern well because I was one of these women. This was my strategy for decades until I got so depleted that I just couldn’t do it anymore.
To identify the signs that you may need to hone your boundary declaring skills, tune into your body and your emotions. If you feel resentful, angry, disappointed, overwhelmed, exhausted, not appreciated, or being taken advantage of, you may need to reevaluate your commitments for how you have not been clear enough with yourself about your needs. When our needs are perpetually denied, we can tend to feel angry with the very people who we are prioritizing over ourselves. Conversely, when we make ourselves and our needs a priority, we have the energy bandwidth and emotional capacity to be kinder and more compassionate.
Over committing to please or rescue others means we sacrifice ourselves and this eventually wears us down. This striving, whether it shows up as trying to be a supermom, overachieving at work, or volunteering on multiple committees, is how women tend to overcompensate for the insecurity or unworthiness they feel, seeking validation through external accomplishments.
Saying “No, I can’t do that,” can feel incredibly uncomfortable as we begin to practice honoring our boundaries. Choosing to feel that discomfort in the moment is an act of self-care in the long term.
Start practicing boundary setting in small ways:
Protect your time by saying no to the things you don’t want to do or don’t have time for.
Practice saying, “My plate is full.”
Say yes to accepting help and support from family, friends, and co-workers.
Say thank you to compliments.
Stop apologizing for who you are.
Stop feeling guilty about your needs.
Speak up if something feels uncomfortable.
Put yourself first – even if just once every day.
If it’s been a while since you honored your own needs, you may not even know what you want. You can get back in touch with yourself. Begin today by doing that one thing you keep putting off because you’ve been making everyone else a priority – take that walk out in nature, write in your journal, take a bath. Reconnect with your body to get in touch with what you truly want. The reward – your self-awareness and sense of identity will grow.
We are each responsible for our own happiness, our own choices, and our own feelings. Believe that you are okay, that you are enough, just the way you are. You need not be or do anything to be worthy of love and acceptance.
The benefits of boundaries are huge – you get to live a life where you are choosing your own happiness.
I believe in you.
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I would love to hear from you.What boundaries, physical or emotional, are you needing to get clearer about? Please share your comments below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org