Picture this. Your boss asks you to work late but you promised your son you’d be at his soccer game that evening. You say yes to your boss and walk away with a pit in your stomach. As you walk back to your office thoughts like ”why didn’t I just say no…what’s my son going to think…why is it so hard for me to honor my boundaries?” stream through your head.
This is never an easy situation.
Saying NO to someone (no matter who it is) is never easy. But it is “easier” when you have clear, healthy boundaries.
Boundaries are like an invisible fence. This invisible fence keeps in what you do want in your life — things like hard work, family, health, trust, happiness, commitment. At the same time, this special fence keeps outthose things you don’t want in your life – things like stress, disappointment, overwhelm, struggle, heaviness.
The problem is that most of us don’t have this fence because we haven’t established strong, clear, healthy boundaries.
In my experience clients start out in one of three boundary categories: No Boundaries, Squishy Boundaries or Rigid Boundaries.
No Boundaries. This category somewhat speaks for itself. But it’s safe to say that people who fall into this category suffer greatly because they don’t know how to say NO and their focus is typically on pleasing other people at the expense of their own peace of mind. People with no boundaries often feel and appear like the victim.
Squishy Boundaries. People with Squishy boundaries are inconsistent with maintaining their boundaries. Whether or not they enforce a particular boundary depends on their mood, the situation, or the person challenging their boundary. People with Squishy boundaries often merge with other people’s boundaries and because of this they are easily manipulated.
Common statements from clients with squishy boundaries sound like:
** I feel like people take advantage of me,
** I feel guilty for saying “NO”,
** My time is often highjacked by other people,
** My choices are often dictated by what others want,
** I often feel like the victim,
** I often feel anxious or afraid.
Rigid Boundaries. With rigid boundaries there is no grey area. There is only black and white. I like to think of rigid boundaries as barriers because they don’t allow for connection — they keep people out, and prevent closeness and developing relationships. Rigid boundaries are created from a place of fear and/or control.
Comments from clients with rigid boundaries sound like:
** I feel confined,
** I am unclear about why they are setting a boundary in the first place,
** I feel in “control” but not in a healthy way,
** I feel isolated,
** I feel angry (again, because they’re not sure why they are sticking to a particular rigid boundary).
The goal when I’m working with clients one on one or presenting a workshop on boundaries is to move clients away from boundaries that keep them stuck to more flexible boundaries that allow them freedom and choice.
Flexible Boundaries. When a person has flexible boundaries it doesn’t mean that they change with the wind. It simply means they are set with love, intention and self awareness, and that they get to choose what to let in or what to block out. They are at choice. These are the strongest healthiest boundaries.
Now, listen to what clients with clear, well-thought-out, flexible boundaries often say:
**I live with intention,
**People respect me more (ironically),
**I know what’s important to me and I honor that,
**People know they can count on me,
**I feel at peace,
**I feel comfortable with myself and my choices.
What a difference!
So what do you choose? Do you choose the struggle of living without boundaries? Or do you choose the power of taking control of your choices and of yourself?
And, remember, the strongest and healthiest boundaries are set from love not fear.
Stay tuned for my next newsletter where we’ll explore boundary types and areas to look at when setting your boundaries.
And, check out this free download of questions to help you determine where you might need stronger, healthier boundaries in your life. You can access it here: http://www.encompass-coaching.com/OrderCreatingBoundaries
Good luck & have fun playing with these concepts.
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