“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.” ~Brene Brown
Goodness. This woman not only has my heart, she has my attention. This quote is from her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. I haven’t read it yet because I’m still reading Daring Greatly, but it’s still one of my all-time favorite quotes. And it explains a lot.
Often times, not honoring our own boundaries frustrates us, but it’s usually aimed outwardly in our response, not inwardly where it belongs.
Assertiveness is your responsibility. It may be difficult, and that’s what I’m here for, but it’s still your responsibility to train others around you how you want to be treated & what your expectations for communication are. You first have to learn what that is.
And like Brene so eloquently stated, we usually end up damaging a person rather than a behavior or a choice, when that person never deserved that kind of emotional reaction from us.
When we talk about assertiveness, we have to also discuss boundaries – and boundaries are a hot topic among women – we do tend to struggle with it in one or more areas.
We usually have what I call ‘selective asserting’, where we are bounty hunters in one area of our life and bunny rabbits in another, meaning we can assert ourselves at work all day, but when it comes to our difficult family member, we let them run all over us. OR we have no problem handling our family relationships, but with our friends, we struggle to maintain effective rules of engagement.
We say yes every time to every thing, then feel frustrated later.
These types of situations beg us to have this conversation. Leadership is fine and great to talk about & teach on, but it’s the bigger picture. Asserting yourself and honoring your boundaries is the bedrock of that leadership (where it starts), and the piece I feel like is often overlooked.
If you can’t work to progressively grow in your personal space, managing or leading any other space (not to mention people) will be difficult.
So, what are these “boundaries” and why does this word often feel so freaking restricting?
For one, there’s a huge disagreement that exists among the masses regarding personal boundaries, and so we find ourselves feeling like we have to choose sides – am I on the side that’s for boundaries as an honorable life convention, or am I on the side that says “screw boundaries and all they stand for.” We sometimes get involved in this “fight” to attempt to fit in to a social group.
And honestly, there’s no right answer or side, so you’re good whatever you choose. However, because I’m really clear on who I serve and what my business exists for, I know that if you’re an avid reader of my material, you crave healthy boundaries in your life.
You want and desire a healthy way to maintain who you are, your value, your idiosyncrasies, and your worth, without compromising your full right to stand up for what you value and need. For you (and me, for the record), these two ways of being need to somehow go hand-in-hand. We need to be able to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, in a respectful, yet clear way that lets others know what we’re about.
And when a sophisticated, smart, emotionally healthy woman goes to work, interacts with her family, disciplines her children, or wants the promotion, there’s a great need for others to get a sense of what she’s about, without causing her to feel like she has to say “umm….talk to the hand!”
Healthy boundary-setting will govern interactions. With us. With you. With me.
[quote author=”Anne Linden”]The most important distinction anyone can ever make in their life is between who they are as an individual and their connection with others.[/quote]
That quote is from Anne’s book, Boundaries in Human Relationships, How to Be Separate and Connected.
I couldn’t agree more, so let’s look at 7 boundaries to get us started.
1. Cell Phones
They’re like 21st Century kryptonite. They ping, buzz, ring, go off, interrupt, but also help sometimes. In any case, at the end of the day, they are just tools. Tools that help us be a little more connected. It’s up to you to set the boundary with what this looks like with those around you – just because they have an “expectation” of standard cell phone usage, doesn’t bind you to it. Say when it’s too much.
2. Social Media
Really no different. It will be there when you wake up. It really is the introvert’s delight, social media. It is always there – I assure you it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and anything you miss you can easily access when you get ready. Introverts really wish more people knew this. It’s always a good idea then to approach an introvert and ask them what the best way to contact them is – you might be surprised it might not be Facebook.
In the hilarious TV sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon & Leonard have a roommate agreement that, at times is downright ridiculous by most people’s standards. However, on a serious note, it isn’t a bad idea if you’re an introvert with roomies. Introverted women really need their space. Violating that space by suddenly bombarding them with company or not respecting their time in the apartment or house feels like you’re zapping their energy & focus. It feels invasive. You can win them over by having more set boundaries and guidelines about when company is allowed to come over, how long they can stay, and noise levels.
This goes for all relationships for introverts – we need our space here too. We love you, we want to spend time with you, but trust if you feel us getting irritated when we’re with you, we’re just trying to manage our energy most of the time. We feel drained from the interaction, not your presence. (And yes, there’s a difference). It’s not personal. We would feel just as drained with someone else. If you gave us 20-30 minutes alone, we’d be good to go for another while.
This is one of my favorite topics. I’m in the midst of writing an assertiveness course for women for release later this year, and I’m enjoying this particular part, because I’m pretty passionate about bringing this to light for us.
We have to stop apologizing for things that don’t warrant it – like calling a meeting with your team, asking for what you want or need, honoring your personal morals, or disciplining your children in front of others. We should, on the other hand, apologize for things like calling a meeting last minute, offending someone we’ve sincerely hurt, or not being fair in discipline with our kids.
There are two packages excessive apologies come in:
One is you. The other is others. Neither is healthy, and both create bad cycles. Here’s what I mean…
5. Your apologies
I’m sorry to bother you but…. / I’m sorry I don’t feel good… / I’m sorry to call this meeting… / Sorry to be such a nag, but… / Sorry if it seems like I’m_________… / I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…..
We gotta stop this cycle of apologizing for things that are either a part of a job duty what we get paid for, a position we’ve earned, a natural human & bodily function, or we have every right to ask for.
I promise if you start paying attention, you’ll likely catch yourself saying I’m sorry way too often. And if not out loud, you’re probably saying it subtly in your mind in the form of self-doubt.
I’m here to relieve you of your apologetic duties. If it matters to apologize, please do it, but otherwise, you are diminishing who you are each time you say it. It gives the connotation to others that you aren’t secure in exactly who you are & what you want or need. And maybe you’re not, and that’s okay. Start in just one area to pay special attention, then move to another area. You will get there.
6. Others’ apologies
If you’ve ever been in a relationship with someone who is always saying “I’m sorry” or “I apologize”, you already know what this means. It is really frustrating & horrible to think someone is going to do better next time, not repeat the same mistakes over and over, or won’t keep hurting you the same way repeatedly. And the “I’m sorry” just makes it 3 times worse. It’s not cute. And the need for it indicates no change has been made. Be careful with people who are constantly placing themselves in positions to have to apologize to you.
7. Managing Societal Expectations and Conventions
In her book A Place of Yes, founder of the Skinnygirl brand, Bethenny Frankel, talks about “normal noise.” She says, “Normal noise tells you that the other person is doing something that isn’t normal, and therefore they are wrong, and you are right.”
I kind of love this allegory.
I believe there’s a fine line between a person’s interpretation of “normal” and what is deemed as a “social convention.” That line is blurry a lot, and when it comes to boundaries, we often feel pressured to attend parties, give gifts, or do “what everyone else is doing” in order to fit into someone else’s status quo.
Like your energy, this is about management and balance.
It’s about being open to doing some things out of your comfort zone at times, and not other times. It’s about knowing yourself, honoring your values, being willing to stretch a little bit out of what usually makes you comfortable, and feeling good about whatever decision you do end up making.
And doing that more often.
Now, I’d like to hear from you. Are these some of the healthy boundaries you’d like to get better at? Are there any boundaries you can think of I didn’t list here?
Let’s face it – this is a sensitive topic, and something with which we’re all always a work in progress. Something you add could help someone else, so I look forward to your insights.
Thank you for being here each week and reading,