It's such a loaded word 'boundaries'. People say it with such gravitas sometimes. 'Know your boundaries' they might say when coaching you on how to deal with life. 'Make sure you put good boundaries in place' they might say when advising you on how to deal with new colleagues. 'She's got no idea how to set boundaries' they might say when criticising someone on how they run their affairs.
What does this mean? I'm no expert, but here's what I understand 'boundaries' to mean in the context of my life.
It means I know when to gently pull back from a relationship that no longer feels reciprocal or fun.
It means I will the risk of offending a distant acquaintance or casual friend if I turn down an invitation that doesn't suit me on that particular day.
It means sometimes I prioritise my mental health, physical wellbeing (i.e. tiredness levels) and the health and wellbeing of my immediate family before I bow to the needs of others around me.
It means I try not to put pleasing other people first all the time.
It means I'm aware when another person is sucking up a lot of the oxygen around me - more than I can spare - and that only giving myself some space from that person will stop me being worn down by them.
It doesn't mean I intentionally set out to be mean, unthinking, offensive or unkind. It just means that I recognise that not all of the people can be pleased all of the time, and that some people require an awful lot of attention that I can't consistently offer to them.
It means I care about myself. Recognising that if I am un-stressed, well-rested and calm I'm better off to every person in my life and myself.
I read somewhere the other day this great quote: “Saying yes all the time won’t make me Wonder Woman. It will make me worn-out woman”. And that's the point. I am no good to anyone if I am consistently exhausted, strung out and resentful.
So I try to put some boundaries in place.
Sometimes I politely turn down invitations. Sometimes I delicately & slowly retreat from people. Sometimes I ignore the phone when it rings because it doesn't suit me to be available right at that moment. Sometimes I even get really brave and clearly state what is acceptable (or not) to me in a working or personal relationship.
It's not always easy setting boundaries but I do think it's a smart thing to do, and the more you do it the easier it gets.
I'd be interested to hear what 'having boundaries' means to you. And what sort of things you do to put them in place.....
Love, Mrs D xxx