I have a love/ hate relationship with boundaries. I love when I can see my boundaries working and allowing my life to run smoothly. I cherish those sweet moments when it all connects. I rise above my feelings to see the bigger picture and move forward emotionally. Growth is wonderful. Well it’s wonderful when we are at the end of a growth period and can see the finish line! And we can say, “Yes, I made it! I’m awesome!” It’s amazing when we conquer these 4 crucial steps to happiness through healthy boundaries!
But I hate when I find myself in a hole of my own making. And then boundaries arrives on the scene again to “help” me out of the pit and teach me a new lesson.
But never fear! We are not wimps! So don’t hesitate to dive into this post about boundaries. We will see how far we have come and be challenged to grow and become stronger in a new way.
Last week, I hosted a 5 Day Challenge: Healthy Family Boundaries for the Holidays. No matter how many times I teach boundaries, I always learn something new. Boundaries allow us to set limits on what we will do, what we feel comfortable or uncomfortable with and how we would like to be treated. Boundaries are the framework of how we choose to live our lives. So basically they are super important! Think of them like a boundary line on your property or imagine a fenced in yard which belongs to you. So while the information is fresh on my brain I want to share 4 crucial steps to happiness through healthy boundaries.
4 Crucial Steps to Happiness Through Healthy Boundaries
These steps are simple enough, but they can sometimes be hard to put into action. Each new experiences or relationship in life causes us to reexamine our boundaries.
Be Intentional With Your Priorities and Goals
Learning to set limits in your life is so much easier when you are intentional about your time. Think through what is important to you. What are your main goals in life overall?
Also think about what stage in life you are currently and your responsibility. When you know what you are working toward then making decisions become simpler.
Are you in the stage where you have lots of littles at home and you need to be hands on with them? Or is your house filled with tweens and teens that need you to make space in your life to handle deep conversations and busy schedules?
Are you starting a new business that is going to require more attention and you have less time for outside activities?
Learn to Say No
Define in your mind who you want to be able to say no to in your life. Do you struggle telling no to everyone or just a few people? Are you able to set clear limitations in your private life but not your professional life or vice versa?
How has your life become stressful or complicated because of your inability to say no? In what ways would your life improve if you could decline some opportunities or requests?
Next, we need to decide how to say no. Because it doesn’t usually work to just tell yourself that you need to say no to someone. We need to be able to think through things differently to move ourselves forward.
Two things that often prevent us from saying no is A.) feeling “guilty” when we say no and B.) a desire to maintain in control of a situation.
First let’s examine guilt. Guilt is what you should feel when you have committed a wrong doing. Did you commit a crime or did you just decline a request to chaperone your teen’s youth group?
So what we are truly feeling is shame, not guilt. Shame can cause us to feel bad because we feel there is something wrong with us as in we were “not helpful enough” or “not a good person or mom.” So if you struggle to say no uncover your guilt for what it truly is. Review the messages you are telling yourself. Are the message the truth and are they helping you?
Brene Brown is the author of several books about vulnerability and shame. She writes with such openness and courage. Her writing is full of wonderful stories that everyone can relate to and grow. I Thought it was Just Me and The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You are Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are are two of her books that I loved!
Every time you say yes to one thing you are saying no to something else. So we want to be careful to treat our yes responses like gold:)
Another reason we may not say no is that we want to control the situation. But this can often lead to exhaustion and burn-out. Do you have too many balls in the air? Is it time to train someone else and pass the job along? Or will it be OK if a few things just didn’t get done the way they always have?
Remember that fenced in yard I mentioned earlier? You have the freedom to say no to someone. Sometimes we can be made to feel like the mess over in someone else’s yard is our responsibility to help clean and it’s not. Other times we realize that WE are the one trying to manage everyone else’s property and we need to give control back, allowing the owners to struggle to manage their yard.
Clarify Your Expectations
We have to learn to ask for what we want. If we want to enjoy happiness through healthy boundaries we need to let others know what we are thinking. We can get ourselves in trouble when we assume too much.
It is a balancing act. Some of us struggle to ask for what we want. Others may ask too much and not spend enough time listening to what others want.
We can see this in all sorts of situations. When we are newly married it is so important to clarify what we would like to have happen or what we think should happen. Because we come into marriage with all sorts of ideas on even the little things like who should be in charge of taking the trash out or what a typical Sunday afternoon should look like. No one person is right or wrong. We just have a history of what is “normal” to us that we need to verbalize and learn to compromise.
As our children became teenagers, learning to talk about and LISTEN to their expectations became important. If I just assumed I knew what our boys were thinking and what they were wanting I was headed for trouble
Expect People to be Themselves
So remember how that person was the last time you were around them? Yep, they are most likely going to be the same way this time too.
This can be frustrating if we keeping pouring into a relationship hoping a person will change. It can be a painful lesson to realize that we are the ones that are going to have to change. We need to accept that the person is going to continue to be themselves.
But this can also be so freeing! When you finally let go of expecting a person to change you are free to focus on what you can control.
When we expect people to be themselves we can choose to stop pouring into relationships where we are trying to “win” someone over or change their opinion of us!
When we are constantly focused on pleasing those who are hard to please we are setting ourselves up for hurt.
They may be holding an offense against us or they may just have their own struggles they are coping with presently. Whatever the reason, release them.
Release them and look up! Who are the people in your life that do seem to “get you” or you feel like they appreciate you. Focus on giving into those relationships. Need a little extra advice on which relationships to pour into? Read here How to Know when to Keep or Fire that Friend
If you choose to continue to give to people who you know will not be giving anything back that is also your right. But when we give to them we can now do so knowing that we are just offering what we can without exhausting ourselves or expecting anything in return.
So which step is hardest for you? Do struggle to say no? Do you catch yourself trying to “fix” others?
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