“Mom, there is a girl at school that I like,” my son said.
“Oh yeah?” I asked out loud.
On the inside, my mind was freaking out: HOW IS THIS HAPPENING ALREADY? He goes to kindergarten and he is in love by the end of the first month. And then one thing leads to another in my mind, and I am writing a story in my mind about how I need to find my dress for his wedding. HA! Anyone else relate to that level of anxious storytelling?
“Yeah!” He said. “She is beautiful and kind just like you. I asked if I could chase her and she said no, so I didn’t.”
That one sentence gave me so many feelings. But the one thing that stood out the most was that she said no and he listened.
“Way to honor boundaries, honey!” I said back. “Great job!”
When I was younger, no one talked to me about boundaries.
No one talked to me about the power of saying, “NO.”
No one told me that “NO” is a complete sentence and I do not need to explain myself.
So now, I talk to my son a lot about saying “NO” – being the boss of his own body, and respecting when someone else says “NO.”
A boundary is defined as, “ a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.”
Google also provides this definition, “a limit of a subject or sphere of activity.”
Personally, I didn’t realize the power of the word “boundary” until 2 years ago when I attended a leadership event. The speaker was talking about the importance of having healthy boundaries at work or you will lead to burn-out. This concept blew my mind. I was working from home, so I felt like I was constantly working. I checked my email all hours of the day. I had meetings at 6 AM and midnight. I didn’t have a clear boundary for when work started and when work ended because I felt like I had to prove to everyone that I was working hard from home.
I decided to make clearer boundaries. Some of them included:
- No conference calls before 8:30 am
- Turning off email notifications on my cell phone
- Blocking my calendar off while I took my son to school, during lunch, and when I was done working for the day
- No conference calls after 5:30 pm
- No using my laptop on the couch while “The Office” playing in the background – this was the hardest boundary to set if I am being honest.
Boundaries are important for all relationships in your life – whether you’re 6-years-old and chasing someone around the playground or building your career. Boundaries are more successful when you communicate them to people in your life.
For me, this is when I started to say, “I know I used to take phone calls at 7 AM, but starting today, I will only be available after 8:30 AM for conference calls.”
For you, you might need to create a boundary for someone in your life who constantly crosses the line or sucks too much energy from you. So, you could say something like, “I know I used to respond to your text messages right away and help you solve your problems, but I am working on being more present and mindful so I won’t be as available as much. If you have a big problem, please show up in-person so we can talk in person.”
By setting that boundary, you are telling the person that you love, in a delicate way, that you need more space. You need them to come to you prepared with intention and the right mindset to have a conversation vs. blow stem off on you all the time. You are explaining that you won’t be as responsive, and it’s nothing personal – but you value in-person conversations more than 34 text messages that trigger anxiety for you.
I love boundaries because you get to own what you need. You get to declare your limits. You get to own who you are and who you want to become.
In therapy, my therapist said, “What kind of women do you see yourself as today?”
I said, “I am a hot mess. I see myself as chaotic and disorganized – I am always late. I am always running around like I lost something.”
She said, “Ok, that’s the story you are writing for yourself right now, but you can change it. Who is the woman that you want to become?”
Without hesitation, I said, “I want to become a calm and confident woman.”
One full year later, my life is calmer. I am more confident. I am more joyful in my life on a regular basis because I am building the right habits, setting the right intentions, and honoring the boundaries that I have built for myself.
Once I created boundaries for my work, I started to fall in love with my work again. I wasn’t as stressed out. I wasn’t so burnt out. I didn’t feel the pressure to be available for anyone, any hour of the day. That’s the power of boundaries. You are giving yourself a dividing line for what you will tolerate and what you won’t handle. You are limiting your activity and availability in a way that makes sense for you, your family, and the life you are trying to build.
I love the quote that says, “My boundaries communicate what I want and don’t want in my relationships. They are never an attempt to control anyone but myself.”
And on the days that I struggle and feel overwhelmed, I pull out this card that my friend wrote to me that says: “I AM FINE.”
At first, it was a joke. But, I leave this note hanging up in my office to always remind me that I am fine and everything will be fine. I am a calm, confident, woman who knows her limits and honors her lines in the sand.
What boundaries have you created for yourself – whether it’s personal or professional? If you are new to boundaries, what is the first boundary you can set to calm your mind and help you live a more present, joyful life?
I believe in you and your ability to live a more peaceful and fulfilling life.