#MonthlyWritingChallenge: Boundaries

Noun. A line which marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.

A fence. A perimeter. A border. A line. A limit.

Boundaries are problematic at the best of times but the last year has meant that work-life boundaries have blurred. The boundaries that once defined our personal and professional spaces – both physical and mental – have smudged into one. As we chase the light at the end of the tunnel and we emerge from a year of hibernating in our caves, it is an opportunity for us to reflect on the boundaries that we will need to not only survive but to also thrive in a new way of being as our lives resume.

How we look after ourselves, our commitment to our own wellbeing and self-care, is more important now than ever before. I reflect a lot on how well I establish and reinforce my boundaries – both personally and professionally. I review and reflect on the boundaries I have created and make sure they are communicated and respected. Our boundaries need to be healthy so that they serve us, so that they protect us.

“Setting boundaries is an act of love to yourself and an act of respect towards others”. Lisa Olivera

In my opinion, boundaries are not about being selfish, they are about self-preservation.

How I set my boundaries:

  • Being clear on what I value
  • Being clear on what I am responsible for
  • Being clear on what I need
  • Being clear on what I will honour

7 types of boundaries we need to establish and be aware of:

  1. Emotional – establishing inappropriate topics, rebuffing emotional dumping, refusing to have our emotions dismissed and being able to separate our own feelings from other people’s.
  2. Financial – establishing boundaries for lending, giving or donating money.
  3. Material – establishing boundaries around possessions and when they can be used, contracting how they are to be treated.
  4. Mental – establishing the freedom to have our own thoughts, beliefs, values and opinions.
  5. Moral – establishing what happens if someone compromises your values and challenges your moral compass.
  6. Physical – establishing expectations around proximity, touch, PDA, your personal space and comments you receive.
  7. Time/ Energy – establishing boundaries around time and lateness, communicating when to contact, agreeing on the transaction of favours and free labour.

Some of my boundaries that I have been reflecting on and that I have been reinforcing in the last year:

Emotional boundaries – I have a large group of friends (many of whom who are also educators) and I have a big network of professional contacts (many of whom have become friends over the years). As someone who listens and supports, who coaches and mentors, who is a ‘fixer’, I have to be really careful about my own emotional regulation. Self-regulation is necessary when you are co-regulating others. I am the friend and family member who is contacted when people need help, support and solutions but this can become energy draining if it is constant. I am getting much better at self-preservation and not always being available at the drop of a hat to pick up other people’s chimps.

Moral boundaries – I have strong core values which I will not compromise and I have a strong ethical code which is a non-negotiable. I say no and remove myself from situations, organisations and relationships which are not aligned with how I believe we should behave.

Time/ Energy boundaries – I am a driven and highly-productive person, I think and I work fast, I can multi-task multiple projects, I am generous with my resources but punctuality is one of my triggers. I have established ways of working about how many minutes I will wait for someone to join a zoom call before I log out and crack on with another piece of work. I know the activities and the people that boost my energy, I also know the activities and the people that drain my energy so I am careful to manage how I spend my time and energy.

Another way of looking at the boundaries we need to establish is to consider the different spheres of our lives.

Our personal boundaries are the line that establishes what is you and what is another. This line separate the outer from the inner, enabling us to own our inner space. Our personal boundaries inform the choices we make about who we let into our lives, who we let into our hearts.

Our professional boundaries are the line that establishes our role. This line clarifies our responsibilities and our remit. Our personal boundaries frame the relationships we establish and maintain in order to fulfil the role we hold.

Our communication boundaries are the line that establishes how and when we interact. This line empowers us to be in charge of own interactions, to own our feelings, to own our attitude and to own our energy.

For me boundaries are about making a conscious choice not to take on someone else’s stuff. A boundary is saying “No”. A boundary is saying “Stop”. A boundary is saying “Enough”. A boundary is saying “Goodbye”.

As an empath I reflect on why I need to create and reinforce my boundaries. Without boundaries I go into overwhelm, I feel overstretched, out of control and my energy reserves rapidly deplete. I am aware that I have a tendency of over-compensating for others so something I am trying to consciously do is to stop trying to fix everything and everyone. I am also intentionally holding myself back to encourage people to meet me halfway rather than me doing more of the work.

My #OneWord2021 is freedom and I have read a few articles about boundaries enabling us to feel free (when it may be interpreted they do the opposite) as they draw that line in the sand meaning:

“We have the freedom to fully feel the innate beauty of our innermost selves – the freedom to be who we truly are”. 

Some tips I have extracted from various articles on maintaining healthy boundaries include:

  • Increasing our self-awareness: noticing and observing our boundaries
  • Owning our responsibility: choosing the energy that flows in and out of our bodies/ our lives
  • Establishing our non-negotiables: communicating them to others so they are aware of them
  • Showing respect: speaking up when boundaries are tested and saying no when boundaries are ignored
  • Trusting ourselves: closely listening to our intuition
  • Safeguarding ourselves: putting ourselves first by creating balance and harmony in our lives
  • Asserting ourselves: recognising that boundaries are not fixed and evolve, so they need to be constantly revised and recommunicated

Some of the benefits of establishing better boundaries in my life:

  • Creating more space and time for me to prioritise what I need
  • Improving my self-esteem and increasing my sense of self
  • Conserving my personal energy and maximising my inner resources
  • Increasing my independence and creating a sense of personal agency

“Set your boundaries loud and clear, so that the world knows how to treat you”. Indrani Mukherjee

Published by Ethical Leader

Leadership Development Consultant, Facilitator, Coach, Speaker and Writer. Experience of teaching schools, initial teacher education, mentoring & coaching, diversity and equality. Passionate about integrity, ethics and values.

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