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!

7 Ways Spring Clean Your Life

April is nearly over and if you're in the Midwest/Northeast like me, you understand the legitimate struggle that has been this spring season. Nonetheless, spring is here as is the season to refresh, clean out, and reflect. Time to shake off the snow (even if it means just metaphorically for some of us) and in the spirit of all things refreshing and clean, I have some tried and true tips on how to go about a little spring cleaning for your life. Since it's not my goal to add more to your to-do list, I narrowed this list to only 7 "cleaning" hacks I've found most helpful. Bonus: you'll get some on-going tricks to help you turn these actions into habits! 

If these don't leave you feeling as fresh as a daisy, I don't know what will.

 

1. Purge Your Closet

This is honestly one of my favorite ways to get that super satisfied, "I'm in control of my life" feeling. Have a hard time letting go of your stuff? Ask yourself these questions: "Have I worn this item within the year?", "Is it something I feel really good in?", "Would I trade this for that other item I've been eyeing?" Answer honestly! Once you've made your purge pile, decide what's worth selling (I love Poshmark & thredUP!), and what can be donated.

On-going habits: every few months scan your closet for items you're willing to sell/donate. This will keep you from having to do one big purge every year, and allow space for new items you buy throughout the season. Win-win!
 

2. Clean Up Your Inbox & Phone Apps

Photos, apps, emails, oh my! Boy, they pile up, don't they? I, for one, cannot stand getting those pesky reminders that my storage is full or filtering through the 5 million promotional emails in my inbox daily. First, unsubscribe to emails that you no longer open or care to see. Since this can often be a tedious process, use a service like Unroll to cut down on the hassle. Next, set up a digital storage system for your photos and other files you might have stored on your phone/computer. If you're an Apple user, iCloud automatically does this for you, but you probably want to check up on how much storage is available since it can be limited. Personally, I like Google Drive and Google Photos because I can access them anywhere and easily share albums with family members who lack Apple devices. Finally, take a look at the apps on your phone. When is the last time you actually played Candy Crush? Seriously, just delete the apps you're not using. If you need them again, you can always re-download them.

On-going habits: set limits on how many apps or photos you'll keep on your phone at a time, and create monthly reminders for yourself to back-up your phone. Get in the habit of unsubscribing to retailers you're not actively using, or create a new folder in your inbox specifically for promotional-type emails that clog your inbox from the important stuff.
 

3. Refine Your Relationships

This is probably one of the most difficult but most necessary evaluations you'll do for your spring/life cleaning. It's easy enough to identify - if someone leaves you feeling uncomfortable, unworthy, shameful, or otherwise bad, it's time to cut that toxicity out. Really take some time to narrow down who is a part of your life and what purpose they're serving. Feel confident and worthy enough in yourself to allow only people in your life that bring you joy, fulfillment, and comfort. Though the process may not be easy nor quick, those who no longer fit into your life will gently find the exit on their own over time.

On-going habits: do regular check-ins with yourself to evaluate how you feel about the relationships in your life. Getting into the habit of identifying whether you're feeling drained or fulfilled will help you prevent toxic relationships from forming in the first place. Set standards for yourself and stick to them. You're worth it!
 

4. Practice Gratitude

Often when we're feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or simply hustling hard, we sometimes forget to take necessary pauses for reflection. I'll be the first to admit I am guilty of this. One of the most effective ways I've found to ground myself in moments of anxiety, pressure, and chaos is to quickly list (whether verbally or written) the top 10 things I'm grateful for. Often they surround loved ones and the little moments of joy I find during the day. It centers me, grounds me, and reminds me why I'm working so hard. 

On-going habits: There's a lot of psychological and physical benefits to practicing gratitude routinely. Grab a journal and start making lists of the good things that happened today, what you're thankful for, or what makes you happy whenever it feels right. Challenge yourself to do this every week or even every day! 
 

5. Refresh Your Fitness Routine

Maybe you're fully committed to your gym schedule as it stands, or perhaps you're not quite sure where to start in the fitness world. Either way, switching up your schedule and creating new, positive habits can have a drastic effect on your health overall. You'll get into shape and feel actual achievement for your efforts. For example, never tried yoga? Pick up a yoga mat (or just grab a blanket) and test some at-home YouTube options! How about a spin class? Sign up for a trial class with a friend - it'll keep you both accountable and you can share your successes (or misery) with each other. Maybe you're hitting the gym 2 times a week already, so challenge yourself to go 3 or 4!

On-going habits: feeling burnt out in your fitness routine, especially if you're doing it alone, is easy to do. Go with a friend, share your successes online, or simply update your regime every couple months to help you stay feeling fresh and energized to reach your goals.
 

6. Set a Budget

If you're not budgeting already, you need to start now. No matter your status financially, you should know how much money is coming in and how much is going out each month. It's sometimes a hard habit to pick up - I personally struggled for years to find a method that worked for me (Mint is a great option to get you started!). Eventually, I worked out a simple daily checks and balances system that breaks down what extra spending money I can use for things like social outings, clothes, and traveling by month, week, and even down to the day.

As with most large tasks, start small. Start with notating your daily spending - everything from parking meters to dinner. Write down every time you buy something and how much you spent (pro tip: use the notes section of your phone for easy access). Do that every day for a week, then compare that to what you earned that week. Did you overspend? Figure out where you could've skipped that extra latte or perhaps waited to purchase the ever-growing shopping cart on Amazon and challenge yourself to cut down your spending by 1 or 2 non-necessary items next week. 

On-going habits: starting these habits that feel tedious now will make them so much simpler down the road, and you'll be amazed at how easily you'll start saving money for things you never thought you could afford. Adjust your budget as necessary - monthly expenses change, as will your goals. Allow yourself an every-once-in-a-while #treatyoself moment, too! 
 

7. Reevaluate Your Career Goals

This is so important. Checking in on your career goals will help you not only stay focused for the long-haul, but also will help to get through that daily grind and face the day. If you're like most people, your career path has been messy up to this point and probably will continue to be. Meaning, it hasn't gone in the linear projection you'd expected upon exiting school. You might not even be in the field you originally wanted. But hey, a girl's gotta pay the bills, right? (I, for one, have a very hungry dog to feed). So maybe the job you're in now isn't your dream job, and that's ok. But remember to stop and ask yourself these questions: "Am I fulfilled with what I'm doing?", "Am I learning something that will serve me in future roles?", "Are the opportunities here worth my time?". No to any of those? It might be time to reevaluate the job you're in, and perhaps the career path you're on. I left a well-paying, secure job in an industry I actually enjoyed (and still do) because I genuinely answered "no" to all of those questions. I discovered the world of marketing and rediscovered my love for writing shortly thereafter, and it's propelled me back into the creative atmosphere I'd forgotten I crave. 

On-going habits: make it a point to try new things, meet new people, and read new books. Do things that challenge you, educate you, and expand your horizons. There's a quote by Charlie Jones that I love that is, "You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read." Take the time to invest in yourself, and keep your mind open to the possibility of new opportunities as they arise. 

Happy cleaning, friends!
 

What are your favorite ways to feel refreshed & renewed? What are some on-going habits you've developed that you find most helpful?