One of my favourite sayings is, “you can’t always choose the music life plays but you can choose how you dance to it”.
I suppose it’s my reminder that I don’t have control over all things, and sometimes I only get to choose my own response and reaction. I can’t control what other people do but I can put measures in place to follow my own moral compass while maintaining my personal values and self-worth.
We call these measures Boundaries.
You might be like me. In some areas of my life I am good at setting boundaries.
In other areas …. HA! – I am still a work in progress!
Why is this? We know deep down what we need to do. We know how we want and deserve to be treated (unless we don’t). And most of us know that in certain areas, how we are currently being treated is not okay. So, if we know all this, then why is it so hard to set boundaries?
If we set boundaries with certain people we may hurt them, damage the relationship or lose it altogether.
Sometimes we just want people to change their behaviour (without us having to bring it up) so we can have the ideal relationship. The irony is that often creating that ideal can only be done by setting boundaries in the first place. And if people aren’t prepared to respect your boundaries, what kind of relationship do you really have?
Men are better at setting boundaries than women… mmm I don’t know about that…
This is a myth we have let ourselves believe. But in our defence, if it is true, it is likely the result of societal role changes over time. In recent decades, women have become more active outside the kitchen, and are showing up in typically male-dominated roles or positions. Women have often had to work harder or produce more to prove themselves.
Some of us have mastered the art of spinning lots of plates (mother, wife, nurse, personal shopper, carer, cleaner, counsellor, chef, financial controller, business owner…) but we all know that if we continue to add plates to our balancing act, without regular review, some are eventually going to fall down.
I didn’t want to seem uncommitted or be skipped over for opportunities.
I have been guilty of this one! I have resisted setting boundaries as I wanted to be the first person thought of for the good gig. A warped variation of the phrase ‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil’ comes to mind.
The idea that whoever arrives at work first, takes on everything, and leaves last, is the one that works the hardest (and produces the most), needs to be thrown out the window – if it hasn’t been already.
The one that adds the most value needs to be the one held in the highest regard.
We don’t always have clarity around our own priorities, and goals. We have become (too) free with our time and energy and/or we have inadvertently set aside our personal values.
The topic of conversation came up just this week. Just because I don’t work 9-5, Monday – Friday doesn’t mean I work less hard than anyone else AND it doesn’t mean that my work is less important!
When we are not clear on our own priorities and personal value, we give our power away. This minimises the importance of our own needs and priorities and inhibits focus on what’s currently important. If left unaddressed, it can develop into toxic or destructive relationships.
I don’t want people to think I’ve changed, I’m selfish, or that I’m responsible for rocking the boat. I also don’t want to let people down.
And of course, there’s the ‘it’s just easier to do it myself’ or ‘I have nothing else on, so I may as well help.’ When we continually adopt these thought patterns with no boundaries, we can turn into people-pleasers. This leaves us open to being taken advantage of, manipulated, and taken for granted.
Not setting boundaries usually ends up with us feeling hurt, overwhelmed, disrespected, or burnt out and is the perfect foundation for building resentment.
Setting and having boundaries is NOT about embarking on a journey of self-destruction and isolation. It is NOT about never doing anything for anyone else or being selfless and it is NOT about trying to control others’ behaviour – people will do what they do.
It IS about positioning yourself in a place of higher self-awareness, developing self-esteem and recognising your personal value. It IS about identifying what is acceptable to you and what is a deal breaker and living in a place of integrity. And it IS about recognising what you have the capacity to (and want to) engage with.
Setting boundaries requires you to think about how you want to be treated, what you are prepared to live with or tolerate and ultimately how you want to live your life. Boundaries are a sign of self-respect and empower healthy relationships.
So, what about the other side of this coin? What happens when you encounter someone who presents themselves as self-confident or those that have no respect for your boundaries?
More on that next week…
Dalya xx 💙