How to set and maintain healthy boundaries in 2022
Imagine a world where you aren’t available 24/7. Where social status updates aren’t a thing. Imagine a world where you don’t juggle two lives: online and offline. How free do you think you would feel?
As a mentor, the topic of building healthy boundaries constantly comes up which probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you. One average a person makes 1,500 decisions a day from what to eat to which mortgage they should apply for. And yet somehow, we often feel under the pressure to ‘spring clean’ our life; adding more stress to our plate.
So, does it mean we need to make more or better decisions? How do you decide which decision to make? How can you keep the stress at bay whilst taking on new challenges?
Let’s first define what boundaries are
Boundaries are made of values and limits used as guiding principles to make decisions. Boundaries can be shaped by our upbringing and change as life tests us. Let’s look at the types of boundaries that impact most our work/ life balance:
- Time: how you value the time you dedicate to people and things
- Emotional: the relationship to yourself and others; and how emotions influence decisions.
- Financial: your relationship to money and how you spend it.
The importance of boundaries for our wellbeing
With clear boundaries, less time is spent pondering on what decision to make; avoiding ‘decision fatigue’. This means there is more time for what really matters in life. Secondly, the quality of our boundaries is a reflect of our own self-worth. As the amazing Brene Brown once said “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”
Here some valuable lessons life taught me when I didn’t have healthy boundaries:
- Experiment with your boundaries:
- When you start a new job, we often think ‘I am going to give it my all till I pass the trial period, and then I will pull back’. There isn’t such a thing as pulling back. Once you are all in, and people have seen what you are made of, there is no going back!
- Boundaries are like a muscle; you need to practice them till ‘they become second to nature’.
- Don’t flex all your boundaries at once. If you want to change your relationship to time, try new limits for a while before changing patterns across other boundaries.
- You can push your boundaries without violating them. It is called a growth mindset.
- With time comes practice, so be patient.
- Embody your boundaries:
- If you don’t respect your own boundaries, how do you expect others to do so.
- With consistency comes success. So, practice, pivot, carry on.
- When people overstep your boundaries, they are testing your self-respect. Call them out and explain how you feel about their behaviours.
- Don’t mix up being ‘helpful’ and being ‘used’. Being a people pleaser often comes at the expense of our own wellbeing.
- Don’t feel guilty for saying ‘NO’ and yes it does take practice.
What healthy boundaries look like
First, healthy boundaries are this feeling of peace because you are in control of your relationship with: time, emotions and money. You are basically in the driver’s seat. Secondly, you communicate with comfort about your boundaries and people respect them.
How to set healthy boundaries
To set healthy boundaries, you must first reflect on past behaviours and experiences. It is about identifying what went right and wrong; as well as how these experiences made you feel.
Ask yourself some of the below questions to unpack what healthy boundaries look like to you. Take the time and write down what comes up to your mind.
- What do I need to be happy?
- What does success look like to for me? Eg: My bestfriends bring me peace.
- When am I at my happiest? Eg: how much time do I need in the evenings to flourish? How
- When did I last feel I was not getting the best out of: my time, my relationships, my money?
- When do I feel in control of my time/ money/ emotions look like? Do I like being in control of these elements?
- How do I feel about how people use my time/ money/ emotions?
- If I could change anything, what would it be?
- What does my favourite workday look like (time/ emotions)? Eg: I start at 9am and finish at 6pm. I have a lunch break to take a breather….
- Who is my healthiest relationship with? Why? What do you like about it? Eg: I have the best relationship with my sister because she does not overwhelm me with multiple texts a day.
How to communicate your boundaries to others
Once you have identified your boundaries, communicating them is the key to a successful work/ life balance. Below are some of the ways in which you can communicate them.
- “I am so sorry you are having such a tough time today. Right now, I am not in a place to take in all of this information. Do you think we can come back to this conversation when I am feel ready for it?”
- “I am having a hard time and really need to talk. Are you in a place to listen right now?”
- “I am struggling with personal stuff at the moment and cannot concentrate. Can I log out for a while to collect myself and resume work when I feel better?”
- “I would love to help, but I would be overcommitting myself. Is there another time we can discuss this project?”
- “I would love to support you on this project; however my workload does not allow me to help until…”
- “I could support you with this project this week and can allocate xxx hours as I have another urgent deadline to meet.”
- “I am happy to help with that. My hourly rate is…”
- “I appreciate these new responsibilities as they reward my contribution to the business. And I would love to discuss about a financial reward to.”
- “I understand this project needs to be prioritised, which means I will need to do more hours in the coming months to meet the deadline. Can we have a conversation about what this means salary wise? “
Five tools to stick to boundaries when life gets hectic
First, look at your goals and identify which ones you MUST vs WANT to hit. If you are feeling overwhelmed, then understand if you can ‘pause’ the ‘WANT’ goals for days/ weeks…
The second step is to look at how boundaries playout around these ‘MUST’ goals. Eg: you need to land a project at work, but you have loads of social gatherings that are eating up your ‘rest time’ and as a consequence you show up at work feeling tired and struggle to concentrate throughout the day is delaying your project delivery. This is a good time, to reassess your emotional boundaries:
- how much ‘friendship/family’ time do you need to be happy?
- can you cut back temporarily on gathering, can you change the way you connect with them for a moment so that it doesn’t make you go to bed late?
- can you group your gatherings so you only go out once versus three times a week?
- can you get together with your friends earlier in the evening and get a longer night sleep?
Thirdly, involve your network of friends and family. Ask them to cheer you on and nudge you when you are not respecting your boundaries.
Fourthly, keep track of your bad and good days. You can voicenote yourself, capture notes on your phone, annotate your diary….
Finally, celebrate your good days. Treat yourself, because after all you are building up your confidence.
As usual, I will end my blog with a quote from an incredible woman “The boundary to what we can accept is the boundary to our freedom.” — Tara Brach.
This blog contribution was made by Gaelle Couberes.
Gaelle is originally from France though a Londoner at heart, who believes in the power of sisterhood, championing diversity, inclusion and mental health. Gaelle works in the beauty industry as a Senior Innovation Manager, taking pride in being a content creator and a mentor.
In 2020, Gaelle became a mentor for the LMF mentoring programme and, in 2021, is crafting content for the blog.
Stay tuned for her regular blogs in English and French.
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