I was going to write about something else today, but this topic just came up a couple more times today. I feel like I’m being called to write about boundaries so let’s talk about setting boundaries. I want you to ask yourself if you are comfortable setting boundaries? I have had the pleasure in my life to be around a lot of women. I notice that we are all very different. No one person is identical. This is what I have noticed from my experiences observing other women:
- Passive in setting boundaries. This drives me crazy if I’m going to be really honest here. Someone who is trying to set a boundary and goes about it in an indirect way such as making up a lie or an excuse.
- Maybe they aren’t passive about it. Maybe they just outright lie to get out of something instead of being honest. Honesty is my button. Find a way to be honest. You can still be kind while you are honest and assertive.
- I see some women confidently set boundaries and I love it! Assertiveness skills at its best.
- Unable to set a boundary – want to please everyone around them and not concerned with their own feelings.
- Struggling with setting boundaries but taking steps in the right direction.
- Way too shy, can’t even wrap their heads around setting a boundary with someone.
Those are just a few examples of what I have observed over the years with women and with their kids too. Our kids are taking their lead from us, so they are learning how to set boundaries or not set boundaries from us. What kind of boundaries do we need to learn and teach our children?
- Physically we want to set boundaries for ourselves and to teach our children about this. My daughter had a friend who would get in her space multiple times a day, and I would have conversations with her about personal space and how to set that boundary in a kind and assertive way. This also pertains to protection. We don’t let people physically hurt us and we make sure our kids know this too. Start at a young age and make sure they know their body is theirs. I have heard multiple times not to make children hug adults. They need to do what they are comfortable with physically.
- This leads us into sexual boundaries. We want to make sure our children know that their body is theirs and not to be touched by others without consent when they are older. We also want to make sure that they only do what they are comfortable with, and this goes for us too.
- Emotional boundaries – You have the right to your feelings. Your kids have the right to their feelings. I just talked to my husband about the fact that I am going to have a lot of feelings and they all aren’t the roses and sunshine feelings. He understood that and asked me for a little less intensity. I can be passionate, and I don’t want to scare anyone, and I don’t want to let anyone scare me. We have the right to all our feelings, and we also don’t have the right to scream at anyone. It’s important to get a hold of our emotions before we communicate them. I have also had to say that I’m not ready to talk about something because I’m too emotional. I’ve also had to talk to people about how I feel when they do something if it doesn’t work for me. My daughter feels very anxious when I rush her, so I really try to give her plenty of time to get ready. There have been women in my life that I needed to stop talking to for my emotional well- being. Maybe someone is draining you or insulting you. We don’t need to keep people in our lives. Our feelings are important, and we want to make sure we spend our time with people who make us feel good.
- Time boundaries – make sure you know how you want to spend your time. Is something valuable to you that you want to spend time on? Will you say no if you don’t want to? My friend said no to being on the PTA because she wanted to work more. Lillie my daughter said no to cheer and theater because she wanted to dance more. What do you want to spend your time on and make that happen! I just had a conversation with Lillie’s friend that our time is precious, and we need to treat time that way.
- Financial boundaries – how do you want to spend your money? My husband asked me if I really wanted to spend $70,000 plus on a pool? We discuss our finances and how we want to spend our money. Do we want to pay for college for our children? My friend said her and her husband figured out how much they were willing to spend on college for their kids, and how much they were willing to contribute for a wedding. They are setting financial boundaries. What are Seth and I comfortable spending without discussing it with each other? What is the limit?
- Religious boundaries – this is something that I definitely need to talk to my kids about. I was dating someone who didn’t want to honor my religion as a family if we got married and had kids. I see that my brother and sister in law can be different religions and celebrate both and respect each other. My husband only wanted to marry someone who was Jewish. What are your boundaries around religion and spirituality? I wouldn’t be comfortable with someone talking negatively about anyone’s religion or spirituality in front of me. I set limits around that. We all want to be respected for our beliefs.
- Work boundaries – My husband is very good at work boundaries. He will shut his door, for example, when he needs to get something done. As a supervisor, I welcomed the therapists into my office most of the time with their questions. However, I did shut my door when I needed to. I didn’t answer my phone or emails when I needed to get something done. I told my clients I only had X amount of time for them. I will ask a podcast guest when their hard stop time is to get to their next meeting. I will ask them if I can ask them questions about their personal life and not just their professional life. We need to set boundaries in the workplace too!
I’m sure there are a lot more topics that we can discuss around subjects to learn to set boundaries in. My friend posted something today that reminded me that I have been wanting to write about this topic. She posted that NOvember is a great month to focus on saying no to things that are not good for us. Most of us say yes too much and don’t protect our boundaries and don’t protect our emotional well being enough. This is the perfect month to focus on getting a little more comfortable with setting limits. Help your kids practice with you. Let’s all practice better boundaries this month by:
- Knowing what you want.
- Practicing assertively communicating how it is you are feeling. Your feelings are important!
- Be okay being uncomfortable. It may not go well. It may be uncomfortable. That is ok. It takes time and practice to get better at this and to realize it’s okay for someone to not be happy with you.
Here is your challenge for November:
- Say no thank you when you don’t want to do something.
- Practice expressing how it is your feeling. The goal is to be kind and assertive.
- Practice being direct and honest in the moment. If you need to think about it and go back to it that is ok.
- Be clear with yourself and others with what you want. Sometimes I don’t know what I want and that doesn’t work!
- Think about what your boundaries are based on the examples above. You have to know what they are in order to assert them.
I hope you will practice setting clear, kind, assertive, direct boundaries this month. You are worthy. Your needs are important. Your feelings are important. I also hope you will surround yourselves with people who lift you up.
Here’s to setting healthy boundaries!
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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