How To Build Soulful Boundaries for Success and Happiness
How many of us can confidently state that we have bullet proof boundaries? Or know that having strong boundaries can be one of the most important things in our modern culture when it comes to personal relationships, career success and empowering our self-worth?
How many of us recognise the need for stronger boundaries but have no idea where to start? Riddled with guilt, anxiety and even worse shame when it comes to changing the status quo and putting new boundaries in place!
Let me give you permission right here – to take back the reigns and begin to make some gentle steps towards re-imagining those blurred lines. FACT It’s never too late to put boundaries in place.
The first step in learning to set boundaries is self-awareness
Not just an awareness of where they are needed but primarily how they make you feel when they aren’t in place!
Uncomfortable? Icky? Anxious? Like you HAVE to say yes otherwise you’ll upset/disappoint/not seem cool?
What else? How do you feel when you are in a situation and the boundaries are outta whack? What’s the trigger for you? How does that feeling physically manifest?
Sweaty palms, racing heart, getting your back up/argumentative, can’t make eye contact…
I used to say yes to everything even when it was so unrealistic it was laughable. The fear of saying NO was just too excruciating. It was exhausting and I realised that changes needed to be made.
BIG changes but in incremental steps is what has continued to work for me.
Once you have identified the feeling can you see any triggers?
The who, the where the language that gets you every time…
I still get really triggered when people say ‘Oh that’s a shame’ and try and lay that guilt on thickly as a tactic to get you to change your mind. In this moment I take a breath and reflect it back gently so that they have to expound… works in majority of cases and the person often works out an alternative solution all for themselves… magic.
This also stops us from going into EXPLAIN mode. Because guess what YOU DO NOT HAVE TO JUSTIFY YOUR BOUNDARIES to anyone. They are about a deep self respect and a conversation between you and you.
If you can identify your triggers, then you have the power to start making changes. To start with this might look like avoiding certain people or places/events/scenarios until your new strengthened boundaries are ready to be tested. Or you might think about your energy in a given scenario and check in with a breath before responding. Because boundaries often tap into huge emotional energy they can be extremely reactionary! Take a beat…count to 3 and let that emotion subside before you respond. You’ll thank yourself for it in the long run.
What is key when it comes to creating successful boundaries is that you are super clear on your core values. They are at the heart of all of this.
This might be a good time to jot these down…What are your fundamental beliefs in life/work/health/home/happiness. What is NON NEGOTIABLE?
People often talk about hard and soft boundaries. Those that are a no go and those that can be shaped a little if other aspects of a healthy environment are in place.
For example I am vegan therefore if I invite people round for a meal at my home it is 100% not ok that they bring a meat dish to contribute. However, if I am eating out with friends and they want to order meat that is their choice and I respect that (and can keep my dish separate). However, I would never split the bill and pay for another person’s choice to eat an animal…. Boundaries can be flexed in different scenarios as long as you are clear from the outset and stand by your decision.
Standing by your boundary is essential for respect to be built and change to be reinforced. ‘Oh ok then, just this once’ will create future opportunity for peers to push your buttons and lead to a general confusion about where you stand. Back your spoken statement up with an action where possible. Or swiftly change the subject once you have said your piece. This distraction technique helps the brain lock onto that piece of info better meaning less reinforcement is required.
Why not try – How’s your garden project going? Or that bracelet is gorgeous? This ‘break state’ technique has proven positive effects.
If you have problems defining what your boundaries are Oprah uses these simple journaling questions to tap into what’s really at the core by writing out the answers to these a few times… really get into your flow and get all those niggles out!
1. People may not ___________.
2. I have a right to ask for ____________.
3. To protect my time and energy, it's OK to _________________.
Grab your journal or some paper and give them a go!
Start with something small
How does the language you use support or destabilise your brilliant boundaries?
It’s often hard to say no, it can feel harsh and rude… though often that doesn’t sit well with our typically British sensibilities. But often is what is needed!
If NO doesn’t work for you (right now) why not try out phrases like:
“I’ll have to get back to you about that.” or “I’ll check my schedule and let you know.”
This isn’t a straight up NO. Giving you time to reflect on the ask/situation and align with your values before making a decision either way. It is managing the person’s expectations and allowing room for you to slowly change their experience of how they assume the old you would have previously reacted.
Other’s you might try…
"I'll have to sleep on it, I have a policy of not making decisions right away."
"I won't be _ _ _ _ _ _ _ anymore. I respect you and you need to take responsibility for yourself."
Are you feeling clearer about your boundaries?
If you need a little more support in creating boundaries with soul and sticking to them then you might also try and find yourself an accountability buddy or someone to support you through this process! Who do you feel gets you better than most? Find someone with shared values or at least an understanding of the area you are working on new boundaries! It might be that you only need support before a confrontational scenario OR after to vent/celebrate after the fact. Awesome! Reach out to peers in person of connect with someone you know online.
If you don’t want to connect for support then venting in your journal is a brilliant way to clear that negative energy or frustration before going into a boundary situation without dragging that emotion with you! Carrying that will only cloud your judgement and lower you confidence.
In this post we have explored lots of things to try to create the change you want to see around your personal, emotional and physical boundaries. I know you will see an amazing shift even with the smallest changes!
I’d love to leave you with this thought….
In her extensive research Brene Brown has proven that the most generous and empathetic people in the world are those with the best and strongest boundaries. Watch this gorgeous short interview
Boundaries are not… Fake walls, separation or division. In fact, they are a sign of self-respect! And the key to self-love.
If you’d like more help and support defining your boundaries and creating change in your life and business contact me here for a chat about how coaching can empower your next steps.