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Lessons I’m Learning: Boundaries, they’re a good thing

Boundaries are hard to enforce for  a people pleaser, a “don’t rock the boat”er and the “don’t fence me in”er. They feel restrictive and we worry about what others will think.

This post is part of the “Lessons Learned” series but on this particular post I need change the title to “Lessons Learning” since I still struggle with this one.

Lessons I'm Learning: Boundaries, They're a good thing |

There is this book that has been sitting in my to-read shelf for years now. It’s called “Boundaries*” and it is written by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend. I bought it at an airport bookstore thinking I would read it on the plane, apparently I got distracted (surprise, surprise) by something else and it never did get it read. I know I started it, just didn’t get far. It’s now on my bedside table. At least that is closer to me now :).

Over the years of self-employment, boundaries have become even harder. Working longer hours than I should, doing more work than the agreement/proposal states in order to keep the client happy, or even staying up too late because I can’t put down the book… I’m pretty bad at it.

So What Are Boundaries?

According to the book… “Boundaries are personal property lines that define who you are and who you are not, and influence all the areas of your life.”

The authors state that we need these personal property lines in the following areas:

  • physical
  • mental
  • emotional
  • spiritual

So Why Do We Not Set Boundaries?

Each of us will have our own reason why, but here are some common ones.

  • Feel guilty telling someone no
  • Feel like we are being unreasonable
  • Worried how the other person will react
  • Worried we will anger/lose the client
  • Wonder what others will say
  • Feel they are too hard to enforce
  • Feels restrictive…

…and a lot more I’m sure

What Does A Lack of Boundaries Produce?

  • Overwhelm
  • Burnout
  • Damaged relationships
  • Eroding of self-confidence
  • Lack of balance in life
  • Feel taken advantage of…

…and more I’m sure

Do you see a pattern in these 2 lists?

The reason we don’t set boundaries is because we are worried what others will think. Now look at the 2nd list. Who pays the price? For starters we do and in all the areas mentioned above – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

To make matters worse, eventually families will suffer, our relationships suffer, our work and businesses suffer.

If you continue to blame other people for ‘making’ you feel guilty; they still have power over you, and you are saying that you will only feel good when they stop doing that. You are giving them control over your  life. Stop blaming other people. ~Dr. Henry Cloud

Ouch-o-rama. Talk about not pulling punches. That one smarts.

Lessons Learning

First, let me just say, I’m the worst culprit and the biggest offender. I don’t honor the boundaries I have placed. So if I am not going to honor them, why should others?

By not having proper boundaries in place, my health suffers, my work/life balance becomes nil as business takes over, and there are times I resent the client work and feel taken advantage of.

And whose fault is it? Not really the client right? It’s mine. Again if I don’t set and enforce my boundaries at the beginning of the project, why should the client?

Another example would be diet. I eat gluten-free for some funky thyroid issues. So when I do not honor this boundary eventually I will pay the price. Brain fog, inability to concentrate, and harder for me to sit still to name just a few. All this has a direct negative impact on my sense of well-being and my ability to work on and grow my business.

Want another punch in the gut?

Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend say on their website:

Remember, the ability to make good choices is a fruit of real spiritual growth. (Gal 3:23).

Another ouch-o-rama.

So Where Do We Begin?

Take some time to reflect and honestly evaluate what areas in your life needs boundaries. It could be relationships, food, getting enough sleep, saying no to a project, exercising, etc.  Then pick 1-2 of these and start with.

Honor these boundaries, live up to these commitments and start building self-confidence. Then add a few more in.

I would also suggest praying and asking God for wisdom and direction on where to start. I would highly encourage you to not skip this important piece of the process.

While it may start with you, it will affect you and your family and there are going to be days it will be hard. Days you feel you are disappointing people, feeling selfish, or encounter someone who doesn’t understand.

Start by praying for help and for the preparation of hearts as you start to communicate these new boundaries and expectations.

It will take some time to stop feeling uncomfortable and stop feeling selfish. That is part of the process I think. By honoring these commitments you have made, you will build self-confidence and start see the value and benefit of these boundaries.

For me, my first focus will be in my client work. I am continuing to refine processes and look for better ways to set up expectations and explain the boundaries of a client project. The next step will be to set boundaries of work time and  downtime. I can’t quite see how it will work yet, but that is why I’m praying about it and taking it one step at a time.

Oh, and lastly… go read the book*!

{*Please note: the links to the book on Amazon are affiliate links. If you buy through these links I will earn a tiny, wee bit of a commission.)

4 thoughts on “Lessons I’m Learning: Boundaries, they’re a good thing”

  1. I had a copy and gave it away long ago to someone I thought needed the message.
    I need to find another copy; those points you bring up are “ouch” to me too.
    Grace and peace to you, Marta.

  2. Oucherama! I have been avoiding reading this blog, but the next one has arrived, so I had to. I was given the book “Boundaries” a while back, but have also avoided reading it. I wish I had read it like 20 years ago. Things could have gone better than they have. This, I believe is your most powerful and best written blog in the series. I imagine you knew that as you were writing it. I wonder who all you thought of as you wrote it. Thanks, from the bottom of my heart. Love you and proud of you. Dad

    1. Yeah… this one is oucherama! I have been thinking about my business a lot lately and how it continues to run my life and not me running the business. That has got to change!

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