How to Have Boundaries like a Boss
Today we are exploring one of my favorite topics: boundaries. If you’d like to listen to an exploration on this topic, here’s the latest episode of “From Good Girl to Grown Ass Woman.”
Let’s start with a working definition of boundaries. I define boundaries as how we teach other people to treat us.
Let me say that again: boundaries are how we teach other people to treat us.
I had a conversation on this topic recently with one of my women entrepreneur groups. I really appreciated how one of the women described this. She said that her husband and children relate to her as the hub of the household- as in they need her for everything – because she has trained them that way. She said “of course they do; I trained them that way.” Can you hear how powerful that ownership is? She’s taking ownership for how she has trained her family members in their roles. Whereas, sometimes what we do is we blame other people and consider ourselves the victim of other peoples’ behavior, when there may be space to consider how we have played a part in creating the existing dynamic. The beautiful thing about taking responsibility for how we’ve trained people to treat us means that we also have the power to shift the dynamic, and train or re-train people to treat us in the way we actually desire to be treated.
I want to be crystal clear here that abuse and manipulation are exempt from this conversation. If that is the dynamic, we’re placing full responsibility for abusive behaviors on the abuser.
With that being crystal clear, if you notice a pattern of how different people interact with you over and over again, it could be really valuable for you to get curious about what role you may be playing, or have played in the past, that has it go that way for you over and over.
You get to decide who you let into your life, and how they interact with you. Consider that your boundaries are like your house: you get to decide who to invite in, and you set the rules for what happens at your house. You also get to create consequences if or when those rules are broken.
Sometimes we have an invisible or undisclosed boundary: we have an expectation of how other people are allowed to interact with us, yet we haven’t actually communicated it. So we get upset and resentful when that boundary is violated, yet other people didn’t even know it was there. Back to the metaphor of the house: it’s as if we’ve left the door open, yet get surprised or mad when people come in uninvited. We get to be responsible for communicating and modeling our boundaries, because even if we think other people “should” know, they really don’t, unless we set the standard and make it clear.
Some of you may see this as a burden. Others of you will see this as a gift that we get to clearly and specifically let other people know how we want to be treated.
Not everyone is going to be on board with your boardaries. Your boundaries are not the same as controlling other people: controlling other people’s behavior is not what we’re here for, and is frankly a whole other conversation for a whole other time. For today, let’s simply consider it a given that not everyone is going to agree with or be willing to align with your boundaries. That is totally fine. In fact, this is great news for you, because it gives you information. This information lets you know who is and is not qualified to let into your energetic, emotional, and physical space.
I choose the word “qualified” on purpose. Your time, your energy and attention, your life all have value. I’m reminded of a client I worked with to bust up old relationship patterns that had her be in relationships with men who were not qualified to be in partnership with her. She is a frickin powerhouse of a woman: beautiful, very successful professionally, rich community of friends, has her shit together. She knew exactly what she wanted from a relationship and from a partner, yet she had been violating her own boundaries by allowing men into her life who did not meet those qualifications. She is now in a place where she is clear with herself and upfront with potential partners with what she wants, and she is no longer willing to compromise with herself.
Consider the gift that boundaries are: not just as deep self care and honoring our well-being, but also the gift for other people.
What if we assume that other people want to know how to treat us, and that it’s really helpful for them to convey our boundaries clearly and kindly. Assume that people WANT to treat us in a way that feels great for us, rather than assuming that they will automatically push against our boundaries. It doesn’t have to be hard or combative. Creating boundaries can be calm, clear, and kind.