Boundaries are an amazing and powerful tool. Boundaries help you clarify what is important in your life. They tell the world and yourself that your needs are important.
When I was younger I had no concept of a boundary or what that even meant. I worked when I was asked to work. I skipped workouts to spend time with friends and to fit into their schedules. I said “yes” when I meant “no”.
I still really didn’t know what it meant to have boundaries when I first started to use them. I was consulting and I decided that I really liked the idea of having Fridays off. I decided that’s how I would schedule my work. My initial small consulting projects were easy to manage and my clients were fine with the arrangement. When I took my first consulting project back at my previous corporate employer, taking Fridays off was a novel concept that was met with some resistance. “What if there’s an emergency?” (This became a question I would always be asked when stating this boundary.) I did marketing communications consulting. There was rarely an emergency. No one was dying. There was rarely even a massive crisis to manage. Even though I had stated that I wouldn’t work Fridays, I had this boundary pushed again and again by various clients over the years. Sometimes the clients would call or text me and I would have to choose to ignore the call. If I answered it, I wouldn’t be respecting my own boundary.
When I was initially faced with this push back, I realized I had to fight for what I wanted. No one else cared if I had Fridays off and actually they probably preferred it if I had to work just like them. I realized this was the case with all the boundaries I ever set in my life from this time forward. I was the one that wanted this particular situation and if I wanted it, I had to fight for it. It sucked. Why should I have to fight so hard for something as simple as a Friday off? Why would someone even push back after I stated what I wanted? They might be jealous. They might be scared. It’s foreign to them. And often, people who push boundaries don’t have them within their own lives.
People don’t seem to like it when you state your boundaries and the funny thing is I’m starting to believe that these people that push back are gifts from the Universe to test you. They make you think about what you want and are almost a way of confirming, “are you sure you want that?” When you state your boundary again and confirm it. It’s as if the Universe hears you and says, “Okay, your wish is my command” and things start to flow towards that confirmation.
The reverse of course is when someone states a boundary with you. I experienced this recently when I asked my brother for a favor. I don’t like to ask for a lot of favors and prefer to do things on my own but I was in a bind and I needed help. My brother listened closely and heard what I had to say and then he told me, “No.” He couldn’t help me and then he told me the reason why. Helping me would violate a boundary he had and a promise he’d made to himself. I listened closely and heard what he had to say. We ended our call and I sat with it. I wasn’t mad at him that he wouldn’t help me. I was thankful he listened to what I had to say and heard me. I also realized that by stating his boundaries and not bailing me out of my situation, allowed me to find my own solution. If he had bailed me out, he would have denied me the opportunity to learn and come to my own conclusions. He actually helped me more by not doing the favor than by doing it.
So how do you start using boundaries in your life? Is there an area in your life where you feel pressure to participate? Maybe you’ve been asked to commit to an event you aren’t interested in attending? Do you really wish you had a few hours to yourself? Or, wish you didn’t work on Fridays? Get clear on what you want and then share your boundary to the affected parties. Be open to possibilities and don’t assume it won’t work. Be willing to negotiate if necessary. Believe that you are worth having what it is that you want. Because you are worth it.