"I’ve decided to spend my time focussing more on understanding what my boundaries are and protecting my boundaries as I know this will have an impact on how I feel everyday."
Why it’s time to ditch the pursuit of balance and focus on boundaries
There’s a problem with balance, it’s a fragile word. It tips all too easily into imbalance and all its negative connotations. A balance is tough, it requires constant thought, and adjustment and just achieving it feels like a lot of hard work. And it suggests you’re compromising on everything, it’s hard to jump in with both feet when you’re trying to achieve balance. Balance is a timid word but it was also the only terminology we had. So, for a long, long time I used to strive for balance in my life. But after 42 years of never really achieving it, I’ve decided to spend my time focussing more on understanding what my boundaries are and protecting my boundaries as I know this will have an impact on how I feel everyday.
So what are boundaries? Simply, they are the lines that exist between the feeling of OK and not OK about something.
So, any time we feel "not OK", which could be when we feel a negative emotion like anxiety, anger, frustration, guilt, envy or resentment. Or it could be when we feel physically "not OK": tired, overwhelmed, run down. This would be a good time to check in with yourself to see if a boundary is in breach somewhere. Perhaps we caused the breach ourselves, or perhaps someone else did, but it's always our responsibility to get ourselves back to a place of "OK" as quickly as possible.
How to set boundaries
Hint: doing this often means having a difficult conversation or making a tough decision. Try saying the mantra: "say the awkward thing”,
when a negative emotion fires up, because there's sometimes something that needs to be discussed but has been avoided because we fear it might hurt someone or make us look needy or demanding.
It’s for those reasons that we, as humans, are phenomenally bad at setting boundaries. And even when we do set them, we're bad at living by them. We fail to live by our own boundaries when we work too late or drink too much… when we let others walk all over us, or say yes to the things we really don’t want to do.
Why are boundaries essential for our wellbeing
It’s a paradox but without the limits we place on ourselves, we don’t get to feel free. These next two questions will help you to become super clear on your boundaries.
How do you go about setting boundaries.
Well the first thing is to do a bit of thinking about what is working in your life and what is not working - you need to think about all aspects of your life. From finances, to exercise, relationships, home life - the whole shebang.
We use a simple model called the wheel of life that explains all aspects to think about. Then if you ask yourself a simple question for each of these different aspects of your life ‘what is working? And what isn’t working’ - this will start to help you get clear on the areas where you need to consider setting new boundaries. A really good place to get clear on this is in our workbook - REBOOT. (A self-guided coaching course presented in a workbook format.)
If your boundaries include other people….
1.You will need to have a conversation with people too. Remember to keep it simple - you don’t need to go into a novel about this new boundary that you are setting.
2 You also don’t need to apologise.
3. Stick to the facts about WHAT the new boundary is and if you think you need to explain the WHY then go for it.
4. There is a brilliant book you can read on this particular subject - FUCK NO - How to stop saying yes when you can’t stop saying no, by Sarah Knight.
The Icing on your Boundary Cake: Creating Rituals
Now this all might sound a bit boring but once you have the basics setup of what you will and won’t be doing, you can start to get a little creative and think about what rituals you want to have in your life.
Creating rituals (a bit like a routine) give you the chance to have these really mindful moments each day that you savour and look forward to. So as an example, I have created a ritual in the morning, which is to always treat myself to a coffee from a coffee shop.
I walk up to the shop on my own before I start work each morning and I protect this like gold dust.
Another is that I read a physical book before I go to bed each night. I find the escapism of a book a great way to let go of the day just been. And the touch of a book helps me to feel connected to the real world.
When you repeat a ritual regularly your mind starts to recognise it as a cue to relax into whatever it is, so the more you practise the ritual the better the results will be. I would encourage you to find a few rituals during your day that you protect like gold dust.
And once you understand your boundaries and identify your rituals, then you can stop worrying about the tightrope of balance and feeling guilty about all the compromise that seems to come alongside it. Boundaries and rituals are concrete, it’s just up to you to stick to them.
Written by Kim Palmer, Founder of hypnotherapy and wellness app, Clementine app. Available on Juno.