Healthy boundaries are a sign of self respect yet often in our haste to please others and get ahead we end up compromising ourselves. This can lead to exhaustion and even burn out. We start resenting the things we used to love and a long sabbatical can seem like the only way to restore our health and well-being. We need to learn how to set boundaries so that we can start thriving.
When we learn to maintain healthy boundaries and to say ‘no’ to things that are not aligned with our purpose and values we start preserving our energy and mental capacity and can do the things that really matter. This creates a positive cycle of growth and fulfilment.
Many women have learned to always put themselves last and believe everyone else’s needs come before their own. This ‘helper’ syndrome is not conducive to living your life to the fullest nor finding meaning and purpose – It becomes harder to succeed in your own priorities.
From love to resentment
We often meet women who work themselves into exhaustion in their careers believing that by giving everything they’ve got their efforts will be rewarded and they will finally reach a state of enoughness. The opposite is likely to happen. Many will start feeling resentment towards the very job they used to love or burn out completely.
Evelina was working for a large consultancy firm and opened up at a DrivenWoman Lifeworking workshop. She said her main goal was to take a sabbatical from her job. When asked what made her choose such a goal, she replied that she was simply exhausted. Our Drivenwoman Group Leader encouraged her to define a goal beyond her current state of exhaustion and how to set boundaries that would work for her:
- How would she like to live?
- How would she like to show up in her career?
Why did she originally join the firm and was she doing a job she loved? She said that she liked the firm and that she was definitely on a career path she had chosen as her passion. After a little chat we found out that the reason she wanted to take a break and escape was because she had not put any boundaries for her work. She was always the last person in the office and work was always at the forefront of everything else.
When you start saying ‘no’ and setting boundaries, you start discovering who you are
It is impossible to keep showing up as your best self if you don’t set boundaries and make self-care a consistent part of your everyday life. There’s no need to ‘escape’ your life when you start regulating the access other people have to it. If you let others empty your cup every day there’ll be nothing left for your own fulfilment.
Sometimes women jump to conclusions and think they need to go ‘discover themselves’, completely changing their careers when sometimes all they need to do is to establish some healthy boundaries and give themselves more space.
“Do less things that are not important for you.”
And it’s not only people who we let violate our boundaries. We also let social media consume our time unnecessarily or engage in behaviours that are based on inherited behaviour patterns such as excessively cleaning the house.
- Do you set boundaries for social media or how you consume the news?
- Do you think you can start working only once the house is clean?
- Are you always available to your friends and family?
- Is your default answer ‘yes’ if someone asks for your help?
We don’t need to know about everything that is going on around us
Start thinking about boundaries as a positive ‘bubble’ you can create to protect you. If you want to feel centered and truly connected to your purpose there will be many things that will have to be left outside your bubble. You will find yourself in fewer conversations, respond to less emails and stop explaining your choices to others.
Don’t be afraid of upsetting someone or letting someone down. Unfortunately that’s inevitable as you start giving yourself more love. Some people and relationships may fall away but you can ask yourself if those relationships were mutually beneficial. Was it you who was always setting the table or were they also servicing you?
Trust that the right people will appear in your life. When we start establishing boundaries we find ourselves suddenly surrounded by people who also have healthy boundaries.
It’s very easy to be with people who have healthy boundaries. You can ask them for a favour and you know that if they don’t’ want to do what you ask they will kindly decline. This makes communication fast and nobody has to second guess what the other person wants or doesn’t want. There’s no guilt and nobody has to carry other people’s feelings and emotions in their heart. Mutually beneficial relationships and projects appear and it’s a joy to work with people who are genuinely interested in helping you rather than doing it out of shame or fear.
When people become responsible for setting their own boundaries everyone is free to move towards their dreams.