How many times have you felt frustration with someone's actions towards you or have you noticed what comes up for you when you do something that isn't what you truly want to do, but you do it out of obligation?
The dictionary definition of boundary is 'a line which marks the limits of an area'.
Most often we have that icky feeling in our stomach's when people cross the line - however it's more likely than not that the line crossed was one we hadn't acknowledged upfront or something we had consciously defined for ourselves.
Many times we feel icky but don't stop to question what is coming up for us and the true underlying reason for that feeling.
Boundaries define who we are and who we are not and therefore not being clear on them means we continue to wander through life experiencing discomfort, frustrations or resentment at how the interactions with others are unfolding.
I personally have struggled with setting boundaries in the past - often giving to others at the detriment of myself. Whether that be at work over the years doing everything I could to meet expectations of others without questioning whether it was reasonable or not, or with friendships where I would say yes to doing things or to going to along to an event without asking myself if it was something I really wanted to do.
What do we feel...
There are cues to knowing what your limits are and they are often revealed to us via our feelings. How many times have you received a message from someone that you haven't even opened that stirs feelings of frustration and resentment? Or when you get a call from someone and you immediately feel uncomfortable and you don't want to answer?
If this happens are you asking why those feelings show up? What is it about that person or an activity that makes you feel uncomfortable? Do you feel like you are being taken advantage of or are you pushing yourself beyond your own limits because you feel a sense of guilt or obligation to do something imposed by someone else's expectations?
Setting boundaries takes courage and a significant amount of self love and care. It requires understanding your needs and putting yourself first. This isn't about being selfish by putting yourself first to the detriment of others but it is about recognising what is ok and not ok in order for you to give your best, both to yourself and to others.
As I embark on my new career path I'm paying a significant amount of attention to the boundaries I'm setting for myself. In order for me to deliver for my clients I know I must manage my own energy levels, so for me that means only saying yes to activities and people that nourish my energy and saying no to those that drain my energy.
With new clients it means setting the rules of engagement up front so that they are clear on what they can expect from me and what I expect from them. Without boundaries my clients would not get the best from me or me out of them and the roles of coach and client becomes very blurred, ultimately resulting with each of us losing value from the session.
Know what you need...
Maintaining boundaries mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually leads to a healthy relationship and one of respect for yourself as well as others. Knowing what your needs are and being able to communicate them will lead to living a much freer life - one where you are living in alignment with who you really are and getting what you really need. There will be less occasions where you feel resentment and frustration. If you don't set boundaries for yourself you open yourself to abuse of those boundaries and often through no fault of others.
Next time you feel annoyed by someone or something - ask yourself if it's because you haven't consciously identified your boundaries or effectively communicated them to others?
It may be scary addressing what is bothering you with someone, but would you rather have a better relationship with them by having an open honest conversation versus stewing over things silently and then getting more and more worked up with something. In most cases if you raise the issue respectfully with the other person you can work together to address it - we often assume people are mind readers, especially in relationships but life becomes a lot easier to navigate when you embrace your fears and step into that conversation rather than avoiding it.
Start paying attention to your emotions this week and observing if you are clear on your boundaries. The first step is always about raising awareness before you can take the second step of taking action to address them.
It won't be easy to begin with but nothing worth having comes easy. It is ironic but you can free yourself from feeling bound by setting boundaries for yourself and others. Give yourself that gift today.
To your freedom.