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I was in an Uber a few weeks ago and the driver was very chatty, and very flirty. Growing up, and even until recently, if a stranger was making me feel uncomfortable I would be polite, try to get out of the situation if I could, but I would never really say anything to the person making me uncomfortable.
This particular ride the driver was asking me why I was dressed up, asking where I was going, telling me how beautiful I looked and making the ride awkward…and honestly, I wasn’t in the mood to talk, even if he wasn’t making me uncomfortable.
I didn’t need to share my personal life with this stranger, he was taking me from point A to point B and that was it. I kindly said to him, “I’m not trying to be rude, but I have had a long day. I’m not interested in chit-chatting, would you mind turning the music up a little. Thank you.”
Sure, I could have said, “Listen asshole, stop making comments about my outfit and keep your eyes on the road, I’m not your friend, it’s none of your business where I’m going and I’m not interested in talking to you.”
But I didn’t want to piss him off and make the situation more awkward, I was comfortable with how I responded to him and felt that I was honest and expressed my boundaries. I got my point across, which he respected by turning up the radio and no longer talking.
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”
Until about a year ago, I was not a fan of the word boundaries. I felt it was this buzz word that people were using as an excuse to be an ass when they didn’t want to do something. The word really began to propel forward after Brene Brown released her take on the importance of setting clear boundaries.
It’s not that I didn’t have boundaries, I just felt the word was so trendy. However, now I really like it and I like talking to my clients about how to go about implementing them when it’s a new concept.
So, what are boundaries anyway?
Personal boundaries are the limits you decide work for you on how people can treat you, how they can behave around you, and what they can expect from you.
Boundaries are the standards you set about your expectations, accessibility and energy. They are drawn from your core beliefs, your perspective, your opinions and your values.
If you find the concept hard to understand, think of other boundaries. State lines, fences, don’t cross this line in the sand.
Boundaries communicate how you feel, they prevent you from overcommitting, and they are your guide to help others know how you want to be treated.
Why do I need boundaries?
- Do you feel like people take advantage of you?
- Do you hate drama but seem to always have it around you?
- Do you feel like you are constantly having to “save” people or be the “nice one” because that’s just “who you are”?
- Do you feel like it’s your job to fix other people’s problems?
- Do you feel like you have to explain yourself or defend yourself for things that aren’t your fault?
If you answered yes to anything above, you probably have a little work to do on setting personal boundaries.
There is a great Boundary Checklist I found on the makingmidlifematter.com website that I love. They list healthy and unhealthy boundaries and the one that was most impactful for me was:
Healthy Boundary: Acknowledging what you are feeling
Unhealthy Boundary: Ignoring your feelings
Boundaries are a form of self-care. If you don’t set healthy boundaries, you are setting yourself up to feel used, overworked, stressed, frustrated and unhappy. Having boundaries isn’t bitchy, it’s actually an act of self-love.
So how do you do it?
- DEFINE: Tune into your feelings and ask yourself, “What are my own limits? What is something that I don’t want to tolerate in my life?” Think of a situation where you felt you weren’t setting boundaries. What happened in that situation? What feelings did you have surrounding that situation? What would you do differently? How would you feel if you expressed your boundaries in said situation?
- COMMUNICATION: Learning to say no can be very hard, especially if it’s not the way you were raised or it’s nothing you have implemented in your life. It’s not going to feel natural at first and as with many things, it will take practice. Saying no is ok. Remember the flip side as well, when someone says no to you, it’s ok.
Setting boundaries with a stranger, like the Uber driver, is certainly an easier place to start than setting boundaries with someone you care about. But let’s look at what a situation with someone closer to you could look like.
Scenario: You had a very challenging divorce that left you and your ex-wife as co-parents but you don’t want a friendship with her at this point. Your ex-wife calls you on her way home from work several nights a week. You always pick up the phone because you think it’s pertaining to the kids. The conversation starts about the kids but always shifts to something going on in her personal life.
“The kids have camp on Saturday and I’ll drop them off after. Oh, and my boss was a jerk today at work and gave me another project that I have to do before the end of the month on top of me trying to find time to get my kitchen painted.”
“That sounds great I will be home to meet you when you drop off the kids Saturday. I also understand that you are going through some struggles at work and I’m sure it’s challenging, but I would prefer if you talked to your family and friends about those issues.”
“Well, I just figured that since you knew my boss and how long I have been trying to get my kitchen painted you would have a little more empathy!”
“Work sounds really stressful for you right now, I think talking with your friends and family about options would benefit you well. I would prefer we keep the conversations we have about the kids.”
If you are not familiar with setting boundaries in your life, start small. A great way to strengthen your confidence is to start with a non-threatening boundary that doesn’t feel overwhelming. For example, walking away from a conversation where your co-worker lights up a cigarette because you don’t want to be around cigarette smoke.
Starting small allows you to slowly build upon your confidence to tackle more challenging boundaries.
Don’t forget, other people have boundaries too, and they will most likely express those to you at some point and just as you want others to respect your boundaries, respecting other’s boundaries is just as important.
“When someone expresses a boundary to me, I say thank you for being authentic, vulnerable and transparent. Thank you for modeling personal integrity. Thank you for helping me to understand how to love and care for you. Thank you for this opportunity to grow more in intimacy.” – Maryam Hasnaa
Remember, You Got This!
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