Setting boundaries can feel very uncomfortable and usually its that discomfort with voicing them, that ultimately leads us to not follow through with them. But setting boundaries can be done in a kind and considerate way, that makes both you and your peers feel heard. Below I've outlined some guidelines I've picked up along the way on how to establish and follow through with my personal limitations, that have left me feeling more in control over my life.
Establish your garden
I picked this tip up recently in a copy of Psychologies mag. Finding a middle ground for your boundaries is difficult. Often we say no too brusquely in fear of pushing our limits or we say yes too eagerly, directed by our anxiety of upsetting others. A useful way to tackle this dilemma is to imagine a fence around a garden. Within this garden, is your safe zone - what you are comfortable with doing. Around your garden is a fence, tall enough that people cannot just step into, but low enough that people can see your boundaries. And at the edge of this garden, is a gate for you to communicate and let people in if you'd like to. Healthy boundaries are kind and flexible, communicated clearly and enforced firmly when they need to be.
Own your limits
This is something I struggle with oh too often. If you're not firm with your boundaries, people will push them. This leads to your resentment and blame on the other party. But, it's not their responsibility to honour your boundaries. There's no such thing as someone violating your boundaries. The responsibility is with you alone - not your pushy friend, annoying co-worker or overbearing partner. Next time you break your own rules, think about why you did it. Why did you check your emails at 8pm at night when you set your working hours as 9-5? Is it because you were worried you'd miss something important and come across as unreliable?
Disappointing people is OK
Remember to not catastrophise. How likely is it people will think you're unreliable if you're not answering emails late? Does it really matter if they do? We take on so much responsibility for other people's reactions and moods. But, how other people act is not our burden to bear. Stay in your own lane and focus on yourself. You can do what you want, say no and let people down if it's necessary. You will not always please people but that's ok.
Your boundaries shouldn't make you feel restricted and enforcing them doesn't need to fill you with dread. You may sometimes have to be a little firmer with people to communicate them, but that's ok too. We're all different and some people like to try us or they may take a little longer to hear to us. Engage with these interactions with kindness and compassion. Stay true to yourself, remember to listen to your body and be mindful.
Sending loving kindness you way,