Picture this: it's 10 am on Sunday morning, and after a long week, you blocked off the day with all intentions of washing clothes, cleaning your room, meal prepping, and preparing for the week ahead.
Then, you get the call from one of your girls. Her voice is high pitched, as if she already knows she’s going to have to do some convincing. After engaging in small talk, she hits you immediately with “So... want to go to brunch at 12?!”
Now, it’s time for you to decide if you want to stick to the original plan or diverge from the much needed day of self-care. You don’t want to say “no” because you might get FOMO (fear of missing out) when you see the IG stories or, even worse, your friends may stop inviting you out. But, if you say “yes”, then you’re at least $50 in the hole and your productivity for the rest of your day is likely gone. Trust me, we’ve all been there.
While this is a simple example, it’s one that shows the dilemma we sometimes face while deciding when and how to set boundaries. Most of the time, we think about boundaries in the context of dealing with other people, whether it's platonic or romantic relationships. Yet, how often do you think about setting boundaries with yourself?
My therapist and I talk about this topic often - so much that she sent me an article entitled “10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries” from Psych Central ahead of one of our most recent sessions. I’m assuming it was her way of gently telling me, “Girl, we’re not going through this again.” Heard you, sis!
I don’t know if you’ve ever read something that you felt was speaking to you directly, but this was exactly that for me. Here are three insights from the article that I think every person should know when it comes to boundaries:
1. Name Your Limits: “You can’t set good boundaries if you’re unsure of where you stand. So identify your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits. Consider what you can tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed. Those feelings help us identify what our limits are.”
2. Tune Into Your Feelings: “[There are] two key feelings that are red flags or cues that we’re letting go of our boundaries: discomfort and resentment. Resentment usually comes from being taken advantage of or not appreciated. It’s often a sign that we’re pushing ourselves either beyond our own limits because we feel guilty or someone else is imposing their expectations, views or values on us. When someone acts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s a cue to us they may be violating or crossing a boundary.”
3. Give Yourself Permission: “Fear, guilt and self-doubt are big potential pitfalls. We might fear the other person’s response if we set and enforce our boundaries. We might feel guilty by speaking up or saying no. Many believe that they should be able to cope with a situation or say yes because they’re a good [friend], even though they “feel drained or taken advantage of.” We might wonder if we even deserve to have boundaries in the first place. Boundaries aren’t just a sign of a healthy relationship; they’re a sign of self-respect. So give yourself the permission to set boundaries and work to preserve them.”
We set boundaries to protect our energy from situations and people that do not serve us in that moment. In the brunch example, the only reason I probably would have gone is to ensure I wasn’t missing out on the fun. When in reality, being at home and getting my life together was all the fun I needed on that Sunday. So, at what cost do we allow ourselves to push past the boundaries we set? What is that situation or person giving to me, and what is it taking from me? There will be times when we decide to accept the brunch invitation and end up having the time of our lives, but there will also be times when we accept the invitation and instantly regret our decision.
Boundaries allow us to show up and be present in situations that we choose to engage in, without regrets. So, the next time someone invites you to step outside of your boundaries, just ask yourself “Am I serving myself by taking this invitation?” If the answer is no, stand confidently in your decision to do what’s best for you. Setting boundaries is all about clearly defining our limits and staying in tune with our feelings to remind us when we’re crossing a line within ourselves. Your friends (and the mimosas) will always be there. :)