Boundaries 101

I’m a rule follower. Official rules and laws, implied rules, rules of society… I love all the rules. I understand the rules. They give me order, help me make sense of things, and keep me on track. But it also means I have very specific ideas of how things “should” be and when people behave outside of the way they “should”, I get frustrated. I assumed the old rule of "treat others the way you want to be treated" would apply to all my relationships and interactions... but boy was I wrong.

One area I came to realize I needed to get better at was at setting boundaries. Boundaries with my employers, friends, husband, family, self… As a people-pleaser with anxiety, telling people “No” was something that almost never happened. And, again, I naively assumed people would follow the golden rule and no one wold take advantage of each other. But over time I realized that I couldn’t just say “yes” to everything and that people didn't always act the way they "should". And every time I said “yes” to something, I was having to say “no” to something else. Usually that meant saying “no” to peace of mind, sleep, saving money, me time, or time with my kid.

My mental health was constantly taking a beating because I couldn’t turn-off my work-brain when I went home. I was saying “YES” to every project or extra assignment I was tasked with because I felt like if I didn’t do it, I’d be letting down the organization as a whole.

I would let family guilt me into trips or events that I truly didn’t have the time or mental capacity to commit to.

I would babysit or do stuff for friends who never bothered to pour anything back to me in return.

I took on extra assignments and duties at work without an increase in pay or title because I assumed my leadership would promote me or make it official some day.

I didn’t set any boundaries for myself and chose to let my bad habits be more important than my physical and mental health.

For me, it all comes back to boundaries. I was so caught up in the things I “should” do or the way things “should” be that I didn’t realize the need to establish boundaries with those around me. I knew most of my limits and what I would/wouldn’t tolerate, but translating those to boundaries and being able to say “no” or walk away was a skill I lacked.

Just last week I was stressing about something at work and my husband interrupted me mid-rant and said “NO! Don’t do this. it’s not your responsibility. You don’t make or break the entire organization. Stop making yourself anxious worrying about stuff that isn’t up to you. Do YOUR job and let others do theirs.” It was like hitting a brick wall. As self-aware as I am, I still didn’t realize that I was diving back into old habits and blurring my boundaries.

I’ve had to start establishing boundaries and prioritizing the things on my plate. You can only juggle so much, right? I’ve started thinking through all areas of my life and have learned to say NO. To help me, I found this great article from PsychCentral that talks about 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries.

Here’s the quick version:

  1. Name your limits

  2. Tune into your feelings

  3. Be direct

  4. Give yourself permission

  5. Practice self-awareness

  6. Consider your past and present

  7. Make self-care a priority

  8. Seek support

  9. Be assertive

  10. Start small

Continue working on Seeing 20:20 by 2020 by focusing on setting boundaries in your relationships. Your future self will thank you for it!

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