It’s often easier said than done. Setting and maintaining boundaries can be hard when others are accustomed to you not having any. Whether we like to admit it or not, people take advantage of other people.
In my practice I have seen an increase in professionals seeking assistance for languishing and falling out of love with their work because they feel they have nothing left to give. Getting through the day without added tasks is a challenge for some. For others, it has already impacted significant relationships.
In project management terms it’s called ‘scope creep’ and it plays right into our need to belong and be of service. Depending on your experience it could also be playing into your need for financial security.
When others take advantage of our kindness, it leads to resentment and lowered self-esteem.
The solution to this unfortunate situation is setting boundaries. You need to determine what is appropriate and communicate it to those who need to know otherwise it stays a best kept secret, which is useless. Your boundaries can be anything you choose.
A few examples of setting boundaries might include:
You can have boundaries regarding your own behavior too, such as:
Boundaries need to be explainable. Often when we introduce boundaries others are curious and will ask for an explanation to see if they can get their request met and met your needs, so some flexibility may initially be needed.
Using an example from above, you always leave the office on time on a Friday night. Your boss may have some extra work that he/she needs completed by Friday close of business (c.o.b.). When your boss makes the request, you could let him/her know you are unable to as you always relieve a carer on a Friday night and have to be there on time. You could offer to stay later another night that week instead or you could re-prioritize your workload so the task is completed before you need to leave on Friday, or you can offer to see if the carer can stay later that Friday.
1. You’ll have less stress in your life. When you have boundaries, others stop taking advantage of your good nature. When they understand there are limits, they tend to obey and respect them. A reasonable set of boundaries increases certainty and reduces the amount of stress you experience in your life.
2. You’ll receive more respect. We all know the person that will work over the Christmas period because everyone else has children and as a result they forgo their family festive events because they’re working while you’re playing. They won’t even mind if you went somewhere exotic and forgot to bring them back a curio or trinket. Those people aren’t respected.
When you respect yourself and your time by setting boundaries, others will respect you, too.
3. You’ll be less annoyed with others. When fewer people are making demands of your time, you won’t be so annoyed with them. When you have less stress and more respect, you’ll also be less annoyed.
4. You get to practice being assertive. Setting boundaries is a way to be assertive. The people that need to set boundaries are often the people who need the most practice being assertive.
5. You develop more respect for the boundaries of others. You become more aware of the boundaries of others when you set boundaries for yourself. You’re more respectful when you receive respect.
6. You learn how to say “no” to others. Saying “no” is a valuable skill. It’s not easy to deny the requests of others, but it is important. You can’t accommodate everyone at every moment. There are times that a refusal is the only reasonable response.
7. You’ll have more free time. Fewer people making demands on your time means having more time available to focus on what you need to do. How much more effective would you be with more time?
8. Your life improves overall. If you’re less stressed, more respected, less annoyed, more assertive, and have more free time, you have more autonomy and life is bound to be better overall. It’s amazing what a few boundaries can do!
9. More self-respect and self-esteem. When you stick up for yourself and fewer people are taking advantage of you, you’ll experience more self-respect and self-esteem. It’s easier to like yourself when you treat yourself well.
You have the right to determine what you will and will not accept in your life. You can require others to comply with your boundaries if they want to continue being part of your life. It’s your time, life, and attention. You can allocate them any way you please.
Start by making a list of boundaries that you’d like to apply to your work and possibly life and the people around you. Expect resistance at first but be firm. The important people in your life will understand and aim to comply in time.
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