Boundaries are hard.
Do a Google search and you’ll find hundreds of articles on topics such as why you should set boundaries, different types of boundaries to set, how to set boundaries, and what to say to enforce your boundaries.
All great topics. All important topics.
And…. does anyone really need to tell you why you need boundaries?
If you’re a people-pleaser who is saying yes to everyone all the time, taking on too many commitments, and running yourself into the ground, do you need someone to tell you that this isn’t healthy?
You likely already know that when you say yes to everyone else, you’re also saying no to yourself.
Perhaps you’ve experienced the feeling of resentment that bubbles up when you’re staying late at work to help your colleague, or when you’re on your way to that party you didn’t really want to go to.
If you pay attention, you might feel the contraction in your chest when you answer the phone to take a client call when you want to be relaxing after dinner. Maybe you’ve felt the unsettled feeling that sits in your stomach when you’re heading to meet the client at the time that worked for them — the time you didn’t want to agree to in the first place.
You have probably noticed that being a “people pleaser” generally doesn’t feel so pleasing — at least not to you.
You know all the reasons why you should create and enforce boundaries, but that doesn’t make it any easier to actually state your boundaries.
Why Boundaries Are Hard
If you want to do anything better, the first step is to understand why you’re not doing it.
When it comes to boundaries, the reason we don’t create them is the reason we need them.
This actually applies to a lot of things, but especially here.
Let me explain:
You know that setting boundaries is important to protect your physical and mental health, to give yourself space for what is most important to you, and to avoid being on-call or forced to engage with people 24/7.
You can understand that boundaries are self-care.
And therein lies the problem:
You understand how boundaries help YOU. But you want to please others. And it can feel like boundaries protect you at the expense of the people you want to please.
The reason you don’t set boundaries is because you want to serve the people who hired you. You want to be there for the people who depend on you. You don’t want to upset people.
Turning someone down can cause us to feel like we are letting them down. And we don’t want to let others down, because letting down others feels like letting ourselves down.
Ironically, it’s often people who are of high integrity who struggle the most with boundaries: if we have an identity around showing up for others, saying no to them can feel like we are betraying ourselves.
It can feel like a duality: either/or, win/lose.
So boundaries are hard.
What if setting boundaries isn’t just about self-care, but also about service to and care for others?
The Mindset Shift
A while back, I head something that stopped me in my tracks. It was a complete paradigm shift for me on boundaries:
Boundaries are kindness.
The moment I heard it, I thought,
It was so obvious that this was true.
Articulating clear boundaries is essential not just for our own health and well-being, but for others as well.
Our boundaries are like roadmaps that guide other people as they navigate in our world.
When we set boundaries we let others know where they stand and where we stand.
All relationships are based on agreements, whether explicit written contracts or implicit social contracts.
When we have clarity about the contours of these agreements, everyone can relax. We’re not left guessing.
Setting and enforcing boundaries facilitates greater trust, fosters deeper connection, and helps us feel good about what we give and receive in relationship.
Once I came to understand boundaries as kindness I realized that setting boundaries is not just an act of self-care. It’s also a way to express care for others.
Isn’t that what you wanted in the first place?
boundaries are kindness
clarity on where we stand
shows care for others