Are you someone who struggles to say “no” to things that you don’t really want to do?
Or maybe you find yourself feeling resentful because you’ve accepted to do something that doesn’t truly align with your needs?
If any of this sounds familiar, keep reading.
I used to suck at boundaries. I rarely allowed myself to make my needs a priority.
You need me to work on the weekend? Didn’t really want to do that, but ok, what choice do I have?
You need some last-minute homemade cupcakes for the bake sale? Sure, I’ll do that even though my schedule is jam-packed this week.
You need me to take on that extra project because someone in the office is sick, but also get everything else that I was already working on done? Sure, why not? Heck, while I’m at it, I’ll just get his next project done too so that when he comes back, he won’t feel overwhelmed.
Isn’t that what it means to be a team player?
But then… the resentment would kick in.
Still sounding familiar…?
I’d say yes to things that I didn’t really want to do. But then…
I’d be cranky with my family while trying to get that work I’d committed to done on the weekend.
I’d be frustrated when the cupcakes took longer to make than I had anticipated.
I’d be overwhelmed simultaneously working on more projects than were humanly possible.
The day that I learned that anger and resentment are an indication that you have not set a boundary to protect your own needs was the day that I finally stopped sacrificing my needs for everyone else’s.
I realized that if I wanted to be happier, setting better boundaries needed to become a priority in my life.
Have you ever come to a similar realization?
Over many years, I’ve worked hard to learn to prioritize my own core needs by setting better boundaries. Doing so is the foundation to being able to engage in stress-free communication at work.
Setting better boundaries not only enables us to get our needs met. We also end up feeling happier, and experience less stress and frustration overall.
So, what is a boundary?
According to Wikipedia, “personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits”.
When we do not set clear boundaries that meet our own needs, we are ultimately giving permission for others to infringe those needs. When we struggle to set boundaries, we may feel angry and resentful towards someone who has asked us to do something that we don’t want to do. However, people have the right to ask for what they need. It is our responsibility to say no when the request does not match our needs.
Steps to better boundary setting
1. Tune into your anger and resentment.
Become familiar with what these emotions feel like in your body. You may have a tendency to displace these emotions onto others with blame. Simply observe these patterns with curiosity.
2. Use these emotions as your guide.
When you are feeling angry or resentful about a situation, try to pinpoint where there has been a transgression of your needs. Stop and ask yourself where you have not set a boundary that needs to be in place.
3. State your needs using “I”.
Telling people what they need to do to meet your needs won’t work. No matter how much we might want to, we can’t control what another person does. The only thing we have control over is our own words and actions. State your needs clearly using “I”. For instance, “I won’t be able to do that right now.”
If someone is upset with you about a boundary you have set, know that it is the other person’s responsibility to deal with their own emotions. Do not sacrifice your core needs so that someone else will not be upset with you.
5. Use self-talk to remind yourself that setting limits to protect your own needs is not selfish.
As you are going through the process of resetting your boundaries, choose a few key phrases that you can repeat to yourself to remind you that it is ok to set boundaries. “It is ok to meet my needs”, “I am not selfish for telling people what I need” or “I am not responsible for anyone else’s emotions” are a few ideas you can try.
Setting better boundaries is not something that will happen overnight. Our needs change over time. Our needs may also become clearer to us, as we progress through life, however, it is one of the 4 foundational skills for stress-free communication at work.
Once setting better boundaries becomes a priority in your life, and you experience the increased happiness and decreased stress that will come with this, you will never look back.
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