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  • Writer's pictureAnneka Barrett

Do you know your boundaries?

Personal boundaries is one of my favourite topics to explore, I find them fascinating. From my own personal journey which has been a game changer and in the work I’ve done with clients. Personal Boundaries are so important to our overall wellbeing and yet often we struggle to maintain them leading to stress, overwhelm and burnout.

A personal boundary is how you allow others to behave towards you. It is often tied to notions of self-worth and self-respect. Everyone's boundaries are unique to them. They are often founded on a mixture of different influences, such as your past experiences, social learnings, your attitudes and your beliefs. The majority of people in my experience aren’t aware of their boundaries, it is not until they are violated that we begin to explore our own boundaries and how we honour them.

Having your boundaries violated, whether it’s once or continually, will have a negative impact on your wellbeing. It can be something obvious where someone or something causes you to have a very strong reaction, usually anger or sadness. There are also the smaller and more persistent violations of your boundaries that wear you down over time. Perhaps you constantly take on more than you can manage at work? Or you allow someone to interfere in your life more than you would like them to? You will probably know deep down that these things are pushing your boundaries and yet, you allow them to keep happening.

The reasons you allow your boundaries to be pushed will be personal to you. At some point however we all break. That voice deep down says NO. Our stress levels become too high. When this happens we find ourselves suffering from burnout, indulging in behaviours we know not to be good for us or shutting down. The CIPD Well Being at Work study for 2020, found that 63% of employees were reporting having mental health issues over the past 12 months. To me this reflects just how much we are willing to let our boundaries be pushed in a work context before we do something about it.

Healthy boundaries are a crucial component of self-care. That’s because in work or in our personal relationships, poor boundaries lead to resentment, anger, and burnout.

So how do you find out what your boundaries are and how do you protect them?

When I have this conversation I am often reminded of the Amy Pohler quote:

‘It takes years (as a woman) to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.’

Often when we start an exploration of our boundaries we need to unlearn values on behaviours we were taught as a child. For example ‘doing a good job’, or ‘working hard’. I’m by no means saying these are bad values but we need to understand as adults what our limits are.

We need to learn to say NO, and be ready for what happens when we say that to others. Socially we are taught to put others' needs before our own, again, not a bad value to have in principle. When it dishonours your boundaries, you are saying that someone else’s needs are of a higher value than your own. Are you not worthy of the same respect you show others?

Enforcing your own boundaries can be a little awkward, especially if you aren’t used to saying no to people. Knowing you will disappoint or anger someone is not a nice feeling. Remember you are not responsible for other people's happiness, only your own. Saying no to someone else can sometimes mean you are saying yes to self- respect and your own happiness. The more you practice this the more empowered you will feel.

If all else fails it’s important to find a way to walk away from situations where your boundaries are not respected . This is a lot easier said than done and can cause some initial discomfort and pain, however the more we honour our own boundaries the more we develop our self - respect and our self -worth. We can see how this brief pain is worth the value we gain for ourselves.

I hope this has given you pause to think about your own boundaries and if you’ve found yourself allowing them to be tested. If so, I hope you have found inspiration to place a higher value on your own self-worth.

Remember whatever you are going though you aren’t alone.

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