We all bandy about the word boundaries a lot, without really thinking of its implications and what it might truly mean to us in our lives.

Brené Brown says “When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behaviour or choice”.

The choice she is referring to of course is ours; to set boundaries or to put up with feeling used and mistreated.  Sometimes we might choose to  ‘put up and shut up’, because it feels too difficult to challenge the person who is pushing those boundaries.

If we naturally like to please and placate, then boundary setting is very tough indeed  for us and we need to be very compassionate with ourselves. I have often noticed that low self esteem and poor boundary keeping is linked and as we begin to value ourselves more we say ‘enough is enough’ more often!

So how do you know if a boundary would help? Brené Brown goes on to say that if something consistently doesn’t feel good to us in relation to another (work, relationships etc), that this might be a sign that we need to look at it carefully and see whether setting a boundary might help us.

How you feel about a situation can often show up in your body; often I feel a bit of anxiety, nervous energy in my stomach or a flash of anger and this tells me that something may be testing my boundaries. So then I ask myself what do I need to do to make it ok, it often comes up that I need to let someone else know what boundaries I have and that they have been breached.

I am a huge fan of boundaries now that I have seen the results in my life. Let me explain how it works.

I have a dear colleague who was consistently late for our meetings without letting me know, they are informal and supposed to be fun so I felt awkward saying anything. I try not to be late and for me it is a boundary I put in place, as I feel it is disrespectful to others to waste their time. This is my boundary and I know others may not agree, but it feels an important value to me (these are often linked). I spoke up kindly and with compassion, expressing to her that every time my boundary was breached I felt disappointed.

It wasn’t a boundary she shared, but she understood and we agreed to try hard to be on time and if we were late to let each other know. It took courage to do this, putting in place boundaries can be scary but to be truly ourselves we need to show others, with love and compassion, what is ok for us and what isn’t.

As I always tell clients once we start to practice boundary setting we get better and better each time!

Here are my top tips for boundary setting:

  1. Listen to your feelings, they will let you know if a boundary has been pushed or needs to be put in place.
  2. Ask yourself what boundary was pushed e.g lateness, being talked over, asked to work at weekend etc.
  3. Practice what you want to say, share with a sympathetic friend or your therapist.
  4. Choose the right time to set your boundary and try to take the emotion out of it.
  5. Say clearly and calmy what you need e.g. “I wanted to let you know that it makes me feel ignored when you speak over me in meetings, I would appreciate if you let me finish”
  6. Give yourself a massive pat on the back, it takes huge courage to stand up for ourselves but we are worth it.
  7. Don’t give up if you don’t get the response you need, who knows what will change in your life by drawing this line in the sand.