On Boundaries

I already knew I wanted to write about the topic of knowing and setting limits, and coincidentally it’s actually become a recurring theme with clients this week, so all the more timely. Plus one to timeliness, as we’re in the midst of the holiday season, which is prime time for bombardment of boundary testing and from boundary testers. They’ll come at you from all angles.

Just this week, I heard from one client who is struggling with setting limits with a family member who wants more and more together time during the holidays. This client believes she’s super clear, but also feels that somehow the more she says no, the more her family member demands. Another client has had a cut in her team at work and has had to absorb more to her portfolio without an increase in compensation. Though a temporary situation, it’s taxing her health and ability to be efficient and enjoy life. She’s trying to carve out a reasonable schedule, but the demands keep coming. And a third  client is talking to me about feeling clear in establishing what she’s willing to do and not do, but also finding that she’s finding she’s having a tough time sticking to her limits when confronted with a negative reaction to those limits.

Ever experienced barriers and negativity to your limit-setting? So much so that they makes you back off and say “Ok fine I’ll do it.” Whether it’s a tenacious family member, temporary schedule burdens, a negative reaction to the limit you’re laying down, or something else – it’s pretty common to meet resistance when you try to set up (new) parameters in your life.

What’s important about sticking to your limits? Well, the truth is, limits are the KEY to healthy relationships. If relationships are systems governed by rules and boundaries (and they are), what happens when those boundaries are slippery and malleable? Chaos, plain and simple. Sometimes it’s organized chaos, but it’s chaos nonetheless. This chaos it can be tricky to identify. It can look like full on screaming matches and sobbing meltdowns. But mostly, for my clients and friends, it looks more like treading water, ‘making it work’, chasing our tails, and exhaustion from constantly trying to catch up.

Know what I mean?

Maintaining our boundaries is fundamentally about cultivating self-discipline, especially discipline about honoring our commitments to ourselves. Doing what we say we will is not only how we build trust in ourselves, it also promotes self-confidence which leads to confidence as we move about the world . Once we get internally confident about maintaining our boundaries, we can take our skills on the road and try them out on others.

Note, when presented with discomfort it’s normal to be inclined to shy away and back off. I have observed in my work that women are subtly programmed to “be good” and not rock the boat so I would encourage you to resist that urge. It’s only the path to status quo. Setting boundaries that get respected is not always easy and may take practice but it’s an essential part of our growth and it’s worth it. Once we’ve laid the foundation of setting boundaries with ourselves and others in our life, we’ll be encouraged to soar towards our goals and the life we want.

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One thought on “On Boundaries

  1. Marlena Kaye says:

    Hi:

    I think you hit the nail on the head Shoshanna. Your description of boundaries was excellent. No improvement needed.

    May your holidays be blessed with wonderful new experiences, great health and lots of LOVE.

    Blessings, Marlena

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