10 Really Easy Ways To Strengthen Your Boundaries
Boundaries are for your benefit and protection! Without boundaries, you are in danger of becoming emotionally drained, injuring your self-esteem, and operating in a dependent way.
If you want to THRIVE personally and professionally, you must define and maintain your boundaries.
I’ve been driving Subaru’s for years! I love my Outback. It’s equipped with EyeSight® technology – a safety feature that beeps when you veer out of your lane or get too close to the car in front of you. It also indicates when something is in your blind spot. And if you fail to slow down or stop, the car will stop for you!
There’s no doubt that the EyeSight® feature makes driving safer, even if it has made for a noisier drive. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a similar sensor for life? A sensor that signaled when others were crossing your boundaries? Or even more importantly, when you weren’t maintaining your own boundaries in a healthy way. Blaming is a natural when it comes to boundary issues, yet more often than not, it’s our own inability to maintain good boundaries that gets us in trouble!
Boundaries are the lines that define your “lane” in life in the same way that lanes are defined on the freeway. They establish a clear sense of where you’re going and what’s your responsibility. Anything outside your lane – that’s not your responsibility.
When another car crosses into your lane line too closely on the freeway, it’s dangerous. And when you allow people to overstep their boundaries, it is harmful not only for you, but also for the other person.
Freeway lane lines are easily crossed. There are no physical barriers to prevent others from entering your lane. The same is true for your personal boundaries. It’s up to you to communicate and enforce your boundaries, to set off the “alarm”. You can’t expect that those around you to know what your boundaries are.
Here are some indicators that your boundaries are out of whack:
- Feeling frustrated
- Over extending yourself
- Feeling like a victim or powerless
- Being in debt
- Missing deadlines
- Conflict or relationship struggles
- Being overweight
- Working all the time
- Feeling exhausted, worn out, or burned out
- Trouble with saying “NO”
- Lack of practicing self-care
- Being critical
- Feeling angry
- Feelings stressed
- Putting God last
- Compromising your values
- Lacking healthy habits – getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating well
- Not making time to process life
No matter how crazy your circumstances are or what enormous goals you are chasing, it is still up to you to set boundaries in your life that honor you, your identity in Christ, your values, and your priorities in this season of life. No one else can do that for you. It’s your responsibility alone!
And when you don’t do this for yourself, who suffers? YOU!
So, where in your life are your boundaries fuzzy? And what is it about that aspect of your life that clouds your perspective causing you to allow others to slip into your lane?
No one enjoys conflict or losing something of value – the fear of that happening is what often causes you to ignore your boundaries. Unfortunately, frustration is what follows – frustration that is more directed at yourself because you allowed something to happen that is not in keeping with your worth no matter how much you’d like to blame others!
Here are some simple ways strengthen your boundaries…
1. Clarify Your Values
Your values are the what you are willing to fight for – they are that important to you. Clear values translate to clear boundaries. When your values are unclear, it is difficult to know what boundaries need to be in place. Your top five values play a significant role in the boundaries you implement.
My top five values are:
- Relationships (With God & Others)
- Stewardship (Taking care of what God’s blessed me with including health, relationships, possessions, time, etc.)
My values influence my boundaries. For example, in order to deepen my relationship with God, I carve out time each morning with Him. That’s a “boundary” for me. This time not only enhances my relationship with God, but it also enhances my relationships with others, and creates a space of solitude.
What are your Top Five Values and what boundaries do you need in place to protect those values?
Not sure what your top five values are? Find out here.
2. Know Your Limits
As much as you might like to be, you are not super human. You have limits. The sooner you tap into what those limits are, the better.
Do you need more sleep than the average bird? Do you require alone time to rejuvenate? If you are going to limit work to eight hours so you can be available for your family, what would make that possible? What limitations are there in this season of life?
Whatever your limits are, name them. Write them down!
3. Know Your Priorities
Knowing your priorities enables you to put in place boundaries to protect and honor those priorities.
4. Stop Trying to Change Others
Making personal changes is hard, so rather than working on yourself, the temptation is to try and fix others. In reality, you can’t change anyone but you! And when you keep your focus on changing you, it actually encourages those around you to make adjustments. Remember, your responsibility is YOU and only you! So, keep boundaries that honor you and let those around you know how to adjust to comply with your healthy boundaries.
5. Stop Striving
Striving is an attempt to prove that you are successful and to gain the approval of others. Striving tricks you into thinking you are being proactive and working hard when in reality you are compromising your boundaries and sabotaging yourself. It’s a warning sign that you need to implement some boundaries!
6. Start Tuning In
Your feelings are an amazing warning system – something built in that’s akin to the EyeSight® feature in my Subaru Outback. When you have that funky feeling, it’s like the sensor going off. Don’t ignore it. Take the time to unravel how you are feeling so that you know what boundaries need to be in place to prevent that feeling in the future. Are you feeling disappointed, resentful, hurt, fearful? Name the feeling.
7. Communicate Your Boundaries
It’s unrealistic to think that the people around you will read your mind and just know your boundaries. You have to communicate them directly.
Are there specific times of day you are unavailable? What does a closed office door mean?
And when maintaining your boundaries, keep it simple! Just say “yes” or “no” and skip the explanations.
When someone violates your boundaries be sure to communicate in “I” and “me” statements rather than “You” statements. Those just tend to stir up trouble. Here’s a simple pattern to follow:
I feel______________________ when you ______________________.
What I need from you is ______________________.
8. Practicing Self-Care
Boundaries protect you! When you neglect your boundaries, one of the first things that goes are the activities that energize and nurture you!
In order to practice healthy self-care, you need to know what you need. Then you need to determine how you will guard those life-giving activities.
What boundaries do you need to have in place to better care for YOU?
9. Embracing Your Identity in Christ
If you are a believer, you are a child of God! He values you deeply and loves you extravagantly! He allowed His Son to die for YOU so that He could enjoy a relationship with YOU! Oh, He knew you would sin, that you would be far from perfect, yet He still valued you. When the God of the universe sees you as valuable, the approval of others pales in comparison!
And when you truly believe He values you, it will show – your boundaries will reflect that you are confident of your worth!
Struggling for His love to sink in? Spend time alone with Him. Savor His Word. Listen to what He’s speaking to you!
10. Giving Yourself Permission
For some, enforcing boundaries feels mean. It’s not! In fact, it’s really about you not only honoring yourself, but honoring those around you. Allowing others to be boundary violators is not doing them any favors.
Don’t allow fear keep you from giving yourself permission to have healthy boundaries. You don’t have to be conform and contort your life to fit others!
Perhaps what excites me the most about boundaries is that boundaries and creativity (one of my values 😊) go hand in hand. With limits comes creativity! With less time, fewer resources, etc. comes greater ingenuity! In fact, the tighter your boundaries, the greater your results! That’s motivating!
On the flip side, when you have oodles of options, it’s paralyzing!
Get in the habit of listening to that internal “beeping”. It’s there for your safety!
Where do you need better boundaries?