©2019 by Sarah Tottle.

  • Sarah Tottle

Setting Boundaries



Are you a typical modern woman? Flitting from A to B, barely taking a breath? This is the norm for the high-octane woman; an energetic go-getter racing from one project to the next.


There’s a lot of pressure on women to be it all and have it all. Often this extrinsic pressure comes at the expense of our personal wellness. We must be seen to be doing- to have it all and be it all. There can be a lot of guilt for simply taking time out for ourselves. Take our phones, for instance. We have them next to us- and if you’re anything like me- beeping on our wrists through our smart watch devises, that we rarely, if ever, have time to ourselves. We are a generation that needs to show up. The guilt we feel can weigh us down and we often don’t get the time just to be.


Why Boundaries are Important


Boundaries is an overused, and often misused word, but it’s something we all need to think about. Many of the women that seek out coaching and psychotherapy are on the brink of burnout because of a lack of boundaries. They simply haven’t learned how to say no. Interestingly, part of this is due to the current discourse surrounding women. The need to be the all-round super-achiever in every aspect of life. To be the friend that’s always there. To work overtime. To be the mum that’s always pristine. And there’s nothing wrong with striving for those things, but if you’re on the brink of burnout and feel the need to slow down, it’s time to step back and evaluate. Are the things that you’re doing making you happy? Is there any joy left in what you’re doing? If you’re no longer feeling those things, this can be a signal just to stop. Often, we carry on doing things we no longer love, simply because we’re worried about what others may think. It’s the external pressure that’s holding us back. Nothing else.


Values and Boundaries


It’s important to set our own personal values in life. Values come from our belief system; how we see the world. Values are subjective, they are defined by us. They impact on how we see the world; how we live; and the choices we make. It is imperative that we set our own values; values that align with our own authentic self, so that we live a life that is truly meaningful to us.


Our value system impacts on us in a number of ways. Firstly, it helps form our definition of success, or what success will look like to us, rather than what others have prescribed it as. It also helps forge our personal boundaries; what we will stand for and tolerate in life. When we form our values based on other people’s views, we potentially thwart our personal success. Challenging socially prescribed beliefs mean that we are less likely to follow the status quo, and follow our own path in life instead. Let your own personal values and beliefs govern your choices instead. This means that our own authentic self will not be hindered by following socially prescribed norms.


Many fall into depression, or the classic midlife crisis, later on in life when they do not challenge the status quo, essentially meaning that their life was a road map marked out by someone else. We are in an era where we do not need to follow social norms, we can mark out our own path instead. And we certainly need to do this as this is one of the ways that protects us from burning out. If we’re passionate about what we are doing and how we are living then we are less likely to become stressed. Perceived lack of autonomy is one of the major causes of stress, after all.


In order to posit what our values and boundaries are, we must understand the clear definitions of what each of these mean. Values are the principles we set that influence how we do life; they are our internal code of conduct. Boundaries, on the other hand, are the rules and standards that we set, which influence how others treat us. Having or creating boundaries are important because they are the guiding principles behind what behaviour we will accept from others; they govern what we will tolerate. For instance, you may have a friend that is perpetually late when meeting with you. While you can be accepting of the odd few travel mishaps, allowing this behaviour to continue without discussion may eventually harm your friendship. Knowing that a friendship is about respect, you can begin to set some rules for subsequent meetings, meaning that your friend understands what behaviours you will or will not tolerate. You can offer to serve a grace period of 15 minutes, but tell your friend that you will leave after that time if there is no valid reason for her tardiness.


Being clear on your personal boundaries can also be an enlightening experience for others too. Perhaps in the case of the tardy friend, they did not realise what effect they were having on you. They may possibly have needed to re-evaluate their time-management too. By pointing it out to them, it shows that you will not accept the lack of respect in future, but also challenges them to take ownership of their behaviour too. Whatever the reason, setting clear boundaries can be a good for everyone involved.


In essence, beginning to say yes and no in life is the beginning of taking responsibility. We take ownership over our choices, making us accountable for the decisions that we make. When we are firm in what we tolerate, we gain respect from others. But, more importantly, we begin to respect ourselves. This is one way high-octane women can prevent ourselves from burning out.

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