Boundaries, A Girl’s Best Friend

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We are deep in the throes of the start of school. In the last month, you have likely been asked to serve on the PTA,  as a Scout leader, the classroom parent, and to donate all. the. things. Add in the demands of routine life–work, weddings, unplanned illness, etc. and you may already be feeling totally overwhelmed. None of our children play any sports and holidays aren’t even here yet, and I already feel frenzied!

So, this week, I realized that it’s not too late to preserve my sanity and get things back on track.  It’s time for me to set some boundaries. It may be time for you too! 

What: 

Setting boundaries isn’t a textbook science, but you can learn ways to take charge of your life. We all have limits, and boundaries communicate that line. Boundaries are essential to having meaningful relationships and living a healthy life. Even though personal boundaries can be challenging to navigate, setting and expressing them is crucial. Whether you want to set clearer rules at home, create more peace at work, or assert your space when it comes to strangers, here are some things I’ve found helpful. 

When: 

Your instincts help you determine when someone is violating your boundaries. Not sure what your gut is telling you? Check-in with your body. Are you holding your breath? Tightening your jaw? Is your heart racing? Are you sweating? Clenching your fists? Whatever situation you are in, if any of these things are happening, it’s a clear sign that it’s time to set more explicit boundaries. 

Why:

Boundaries improve our relationships and self-esteem. They protect us and keep us safe. Having limits allows you to make yourself a priority. When we don’t advocate for ourselves, our self-esteem is impacted.  We resent others when we don’t advocate for ourselves.

Sound too rigid? Boundaries can be flexible. You don’t need to have the same limits for everyone or every situation. Just because you may be happy to host your best friend’s children for a play date while she works, doesn’t mean you also have to do the heavy emotional lifting when a colleague texts about their latest drama.

Boundaries give us space to grow and be vulnerable. We all deal with complex feelings when life happens.  By setting boundaries and breaking them, when the time is right, you show your vulnerability.

This could be as simple as talking honestly to friends and family. When we display our vulnerability to someone, we invite them to open up to us when they need to. Shared vulnerability can bring people closer together over time. 

How: 

Decide–Get really clear about your vision and values. 

Prioritize–From there, rank the top three things most important to you at this time. Maybe it’s your physical or mental health, getting that next promotion, or never missing bedtime. Whatever your priorities are, write them down where you can see them every day. 

Filter–Now, use these priorities to filter. This is the lens through which you make decisions. Say “yes, no, or not now” based on whether or not the decision will move you closer to one of your priorities. 

Permit–Give yourself permission to say no to things that are not a current priority to make room for those things that are. There is no need to defend, debate, or over-explain your feelings. Be firm, gracious, and direct. Oprah has some great examples of specific language to use based on the situation. For example, my husband and I bump into major boundary issues on every vacation. Instead of saying “I am completely stressed and exhausted by the fact that you have to have EVERY minute planned. I am NOT setting an alarm on vacation. I would rather stay at home!”  I can set a healthy boundary and say, “I feel very overwhelmed when every second is planned. I need some flexibility and time to wake up and just relax each day. Then we can see how we feel and plan from there.” 

Remember, setting boundaries takes self-awareness, courage, and practice. You can preserve your sanity and ultimately create more peace. It is definitely a skill you can master!

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Kristi grew up in Danville, Indiana where she met her childhood sweetheart and now husband Elliott. After years of living apart including graduate school in New York City and military tours abroad, they resettled and started a family in Indianapolis. Together, they are raising two bright and busy boys—Henry and George. She has a Master's Degree in Social work from New York University and is a RYT 200 Yoga Teacher. In her “spare” time, she enjoys reading memoirs, chasing her boys, and listening to her husband, the funniest person she knows.