“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should as God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
In our previous blog we saw why we should have healthy boundaries in place. Our Grade 12 mentees recently attended a workshop on setting boundaries and our mentors’ training workshop for this term also looked at the “How” of boundary setting. In this blog we will focus on some of the principles that came out of these sessions.
When considering your boundaries, a good starting point is to identify your personal limits. Ask yourself these questions: What can I tolerate? What makes me uncomfortable? The answers to these questions may indicate your particular stressors and this in turn will help you identify your personal limits. It is important to note that we are uniquely created and therefor what is a stressor for me may be a catalyst for someone else. Be honest about your own limits and “own” it. One of our workshop participants very helpfully pointed out that our limits are not static; as our circumstances change, so will our limits. Boundaries therefor are not fixed, but fluid and should be revisited and reviewed.
If you struggle with identifying your limits because you enjoy “doing” things for other people, it may be helpful for you to tune in to your feelings. The next time you feel resentment, that sense that you’re being taken advantage of or not appreciated, ask yourself why you are feeling this way. What is the other person doing? What do/don’t I control? What can I do about the situation? The answers to these questions may reveal where you have to draw the line and set your boundaries. Discomfort is another helpful emotion to interrogate as suggested above. We are not meant to be ruled by our feelings, but we can certainly learn to listen to, and critically analyse, our emotions as a way to understanding ourselves better. This in turn will help us to engage the world in a more informed and measured way; at least I hope it does!
Now that we have a better understanding of our internal triggers, let’s look at factors outside ourselves that may have an impact on our boundaries. The next step may come as a surprise: know your history.You may be wondering how your history can have an impact on your boundaries, or absence thereof? The reality is that our families of origin play an important role in how we view all of life, including boundaries. Your family dynamic may have pre-disposed you to being a “pleaser”, always ready to help, or be available whenever someone needs you. Being aware of your history may help you identify areas in your present context where this predisposition could be tripping you up.
Once you have identified your specific limits, by tuning in to feelings and understanding yourself in the context of your family, you may find that your boundaries have fallen in place. Now all that remains is to communicate clearly. Be specific about your boundaries when engaging with your family, friends, colleagues and the communities you are a part of. Nobody can read our minds. If you have never done this before, people may not hear you initially and continue to compromise your boundaries. If this happens, restate your boundaries and let them know what they have done to overstep it, and suggest ways to address this.
Setting boundaries is not an easy task. The wise counsel of trusted friends/family is an important part of the process. In our workshop we also learned that boundary setting is a skill that requires practice. We were encouraged to start small. Identify a relatively “small” issue and practice your boundary setting skills as outlined in this blog. As you build confidence you can move on to tackling the bigger issues.
To those readers who are comfortable with setting boundaries, please encourage those in our circle who may not be that comfortable, by sharing your experience and helpful hints. Our next installment will focus on our own boundary setting experience – what led us to re-visit our organisational boundaries? We look forward to sharing our story with you.