Creating Healthy Boundaries

 

I grew up understanding two crucial things; one, you will never please everyone, and two, you're responsible for yourself. Despite these lessons, social expectations and my own mental deception during adolescence and early adulthood started pushing me into a much different (and much more self-destructive) belief system. I started to believe I was nothing without my friends or family, that I could never say "no" to a social event, that I would miss something important or worth-while if I wasn't a part of everything, my relationships would wilt, I would disappoint someone, someone would stop loving me. I've never felt more alone during that time, and I've never felt more misunderstood by myself. 

It's taken a lot of self-reflection, time, and patience with myself to learn how to actively practice creating and keeping healthy boundaries in my relationships. And note, I said "practice", not "master". I never expect to be finished growing and learning myself and my boundaries. But since I've become more conscious of my needs and feelings, I've become a lot better at controlling my emotions when things get overwhelming, and keeping healthy relationships.

So, where to begin?
 

Become Self-Aware

First thing's first, you need to be able to tune into your feelings and become self-aware. You can't begin to create boundaries if you can't identify what it feels like to have them violated. Usually feelings of discomfort, anxiousness, resentment, and guilt are red flags. Follow those feelings, ask yourself what about the interaction made you feel that way. Where did it cross the line? Do you feel taken advantage of or not appreciated? Take notice, and identify patterns. Noticing patterns in behavior of yourself and others will help you take the next steps more confidently, because you'll have a clearer starting place. 
 

Know Yourself

Not only need to be able to recognize your feelings, ideas, and beliefs by tuning in and listening to yourself more, but you also need to understand them. Dedicate yourself to learning them and really get to know who you are as an individual. The more you learn to love and respect yourself you'll notice that it becomes easier to allow only people around you that follow suit, and to dismiss the ones who don't. 
 

Be Direct

This has been the hardest part for me when setting boundaries for myself. I hate confrontation, and I hate upsetting people, so being extremely direct goes against every fiber of my being. At least it used to. As with any skill, I had to practice feeling comfortable operating outside of my norm, and accept myself there. Since we all have varying ways in which we communicate or like to be communicated with, I've found being direct the most efficient way to bridge all gaps. Whether someone communicates similarly to me or not, being direct, clear, and honest eradicates all uncertainty. It not only makes conversations a lot simpler, but it also makes setting boundaries a lot easier. Don't be rude, just speak your truth.
 

Separate Yourself

There will come a day where you realize that not all of your relationships are healthy. I have always adhered to the belief that it's best to cut those people out entirely in a "rip the Band-Aid" like fashion. However, I've had to come to terms with the fact that that's not always possible, nor is it always the best solution, especially if the person does, in fact, bring some sort of value to my life. It is fair, though, to separate yourself enough to maintain a healthy relationship with that person again. Here's the thing, not everyone needs or deserves 100% of you (emotionally, psychologically, physically, intellectually), nor should you be giving that much of yourself to everyone. That's a recipe for burn-out and for heartbreak. Instead, create room for yourself and that other person to express yourself on a personal level without entangling emotional and psychological messes (save that for the real homies). Maybe that looks like workplace friendships, acquaintances you know through others, or just simply people you get along with on a surface level. Sometimes a little distance is vital to creating harmony within the relationships that would otherwise combust. 
 

Take Charge Of Your Choices

By taking charge of your choices, you're taking charge of your life. Simply put, this is the practice of saying "no". Say no to the things that are draining, to the tasks you don't have time for, and to the people who don't respect you. You don't owe anyone anything more than you are willing to give, and you retain the right to change your mind or your direction at any time. Taking charge of your choices is the outward activity of exercising and implementing your boundaries.
 

Make Self-Care A Priority

I know, I know. "Self-care" is such a buzz-word right now. But I 100% agree with the hype, it's so so so important. Self-care not only reinforces your boundaries and reminds you why you set them in the first place, but it gives you the necessary time you need to decompress, de-stress, and re-evaluate so you can come back to the table a better, more well-rested person. Plain and simple, it makes you a better human to other humans when you've taken time for yourself. For me, my favorite self-care activity is cancelling plans. I know that sounds kinda strange, but if I'm feeling really stressed, burnt out, overwhelmed, etc., there's nothing more freeing or more empowering than saying "you know what, as much as I'd love to hang out tonight, I really am not feeling 100% and I need a night to myself. I hope you can understand. Let's reschedule for next week?" While it depends very much on the event in question, most friends will absolutely understand (because remember, you've already weeded out the ones who wouldn't!), because they, too, are free-thinking individuals who need time to themselves. Self-care takes many forms, but no matter your preferred method or style, it's important to recognize your limits and take the necessary steps to preserve your sanity. 


I'm still learning a lot about my own boundaries, but while the lines might change form to allow for life changes or new responsibilities, there are a few thoughts that still hold very true to me:

  • Being a doormat is not synonymous with being a good person.

  • Accepting poor treatment of yourself because it's comfortable and conflict-free should not be confused with love, joy, or happiness.

  • Real relationships cannot be sustained without healthy boundaries, and respect for them.

  • Saying no to things that don't honor your self-worth is okay.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject in the comments below!

6 Productivity-Killing Activities You're Wasting Time On

When's the last time you evaluated how you spend your time? Everyone has the same 24 hours to work with, yet remedying some very crucial time-wasters could help you unlock your full potential and ultimately reach your goals. Here are 6 easily-identifiable and sometimes silent productivity-killers that you should stop wasting time on right now.

1. Multitasking

The human brain was not meant for multi-tasking (as a woman who convinced myself otherwise, I'm deeply troubled). The mental juggling act that most of us do during the day often times costs us more time in the long run than we realize. Especially when it comes to more complex tasks and projects, taking a minute to jump over to your email, for example, can completely derail your focus, making it that much harder to come back to it. Schedule email and social breaks when possible and acceptable, and try working on just one task at a time to maximize your efficiency and focus. 

2. Dwelling On Mistakes

Think back to the last time you made a mistake. If you're like all human beings everywhere ever, it probably wasn't that long ago (hell, I can count 3 of my own just today). Even the best and the brightest of us make mistakes, and while it's not awesome to fail at something, it's also a huge opportunity to learn and grow, which will prevent the mistake from happening again, therefore, saving time on re-hashing the same problem. You become more productive and overall more successful in your professional and personal life when you stop wasting energy on the failure and focus instead on correcting it moving forward. Acknowledge, correct, take notes, move on, repeat. 

3. Watching TV

The average American watches up to 5 hours of TV a day, which adds up to about 35 hours a week spent not being productive. How much more could you get done if you limited yourself to 2 hours a day or less? How much more time could you have to create, read, learn, write, exercise, cook, play, and spend time with loved ones? And that's not to say taking time to wind-down after a long day is a bad thing (trust me, I'm all for binge-watching my favorite shows at the end of a workday), but if you have goals and you're willingly spending your precious free time on TV or other media, you're not doing yourself any favors. 

4. Spending Too Much Time On Social Media

Just like with TV, we as Americans spend an astonishing amount of time on social media. Even though it's often times used as an effective tool used for businesses to reach and engage with their audience, it can also become a very dark hole to get sucked into if not moderated. I'll be honest, I'm guilty of spending far too much time scrolling through my Instagram and Facebook feeds aimlessly, especially in the evenings when I am winding down. The trouble is that all too often 5 minutes becomes an hour and before you know it you've creeped through 6 different profiles to find out where your ex-boyfriends' brothers' friends' sister works because you're pretty sure you saw her at that restaurant the other day and you just need to know (don't lie to yourself we've all been there). Bottom line, don't waste time scrolling here when it could be spent living life out there. 

5. Being Unorganized

Even if you feel like you have a "method to the madness", most likely your "madness" is actually costing more time overall that could be spent more effectively. Being unorganized in your personal and professional life will make you less efficient, more stressed, and cause you to miss important deadlines. If you've ever missed a utility payment or an event invite in the pile of junk mail on your kitchen table then you know exactly what I mean. Set auto-payments, schedule calendar reminders, color-code notes, plan your meals weekly, or start your day with a small to-do list - whatever it takes to keep shit together. Because let's be honest, being an adult is hard and there's a lot to remember. 

6. Putting Others' Needs Above Yours

If you haven't taken the time to figure out what matters to you and what your goals are, you'll end up spending a lot of time worrying about other people's goals and to-do's. It might feel at the time that you're doing the right thing by being a good friend and showing up to the millionth brunch your friends have planned and invited you to, but if that Sunday morning you'd rather go to yoga because you told yourself you would, read a book because you haven't finished it yet, take your dog for a walk because she's hyper and you need fresh air, or otherwise do anything at all except brunch, then by all means, you do you. It feels selfish, because it is, and my point is that sometimes it's ok to be selfish with your time and energy. Holding onto your goals and values tightly will make them take center stage when it comes your decision-making on an every-day level, and you'll waste less of your time on others' priorities when those priorities become overwhelming and emotionally draining. 

 

What Could You Do With Extra Time In Your Day?