How to Set Healthy Boundaries

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” Brene Brown

There’s a lot of talk in the world of personal development about setting boundaries. As a natural people pleaser myself, it’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to and actively work on, both in my business and life. (I was going to write that I’m a “recovering people pleaser,” but I’m not sure that’s true). So what is a boundary in the first place? 

My definition is pretty simple: the limits and expectations we set for ourselves vis a vis the world around us. While I generally think of boundaries as they apply to our relationships with other people, they can also apply to things like our calendars, work, and to-do lists.

Boundaries are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Instead, we must discern healthy boundaries for ourselves at any given point. For example, some of us need time to ourselves to recharge. Some of us need to see blank spaces on our calendars to experience a sense of personal freedom. Some of us need to grow our ability to say “no” to other people’s requests or demands without guilt or self-recrimination.

I’m naturally social and get a lot of energy from interactions with others. At the same time, I know I need downtime when I’m home in my p.j.s with my family a few nights a week. So making social plans with friends Monday through Friday is no Bueno for me. There has been many a week, however, when I’ve gotten excited by the prospect of connecting with friends and colleagues and made plans for every night. Inevitably by Wednesday, I’m feeling burnt out and exhausted. I’ve played this scenario out countless times before learning the lesson that I need to set a boundary around my evenings during the week. 

Your Boundaries May Look Very Different

I have a client working on her boundaries as they pertain to her hours at the office. She is seeking a greater sense of balance and freedom in her life, so she can be more present when she’s home with her family and attend to things she cares about, like making more time with friends, reading more, exercising, and also growing a side hustle. In a recent coaching session, she acknowledged that when she takes care of herself outside of work, she is more productive and focused at work. While some of her already knew this to be true, she had difficulty putting it into action. This is where thought work came in. Holding the issue of setting healthy boundaries up to the light, reviewing their positive impact not just on her overall well-being but also on her work, and making a commitment out loud to put some parameters in place – these are some of the things that really work in moving the needle of our behaviors. 

To act differently, we need to think differently. To think differently, we often need to examine and acknowledge underlying beliefs so we can challenge and then change them.

So my mission for you, should you choose to accept it, is to ask yourself what your boundaries are in any given area of your life, with a loved one, friends, work, your own time, or anything else. Then, examine whether they are serving you. If the answer is no, see if you can make a case for yourself as to why and how you should change them. And then make a plan.