When it comes to self-care, we’re pretty good at eating our greens, drinking enough water and moving our body. But self-care extends beyond what we eat and drink. Self-care includes looking after our emotional and mental health too.
If you’ve been to our Yoga Studio lately, you will see that we have tape on the floor to mark out our space. This is an example of clear boundaries.
Before we had the tape on the floor of the Yoga Studio, boundaries were unclear, and sometimes our neighbour would encroach on our personal space or vice versa and cause offence.
Boundaries define what’s yours and what’s mine.
Establishing and upholding boundaries in our lives is often a missing ingredient in our self-care.
People who lack boundaries end up overwhelmed, exhausted and resentful at others for not respecting them, their time or energy.
Boundaries are designed to protect ourselves. They’re not intended as a ‘screw you’ to other people.
Healthy Boundaries make life and relationships much easier.
Just like we have a fence around our garden to distinguish our property and responsibly from our neighbours, boundaries establish what we are responsible for.
Rather than a fence to keep people out, boundaries are a loving layer of protection around ourselves which define what’s acceptable and what’s not. Boundaries aren’t about controlling the other person; boundaries are about us.
If we don’t set healthy boundaries, we’re likely to be at the mercy of others continually. This means we allow others to tell us how to think, act, and feel. It also means we spend our time and energy prioritising others’ needs over our own. This can lead to frustration, resentment and even depression because we feel overwhelmed, unfulfilled, or lost.
People with poor boundaries often sacrifice their wellbeing for the sake of not upsetting others:
- We say yes when we want to say no because we don’t want to let others down (people-pleasing).
- We don’t speak up for fear of upsetting others.
- We allow others to take advantage of our time, energy, money because we can’t say No.
- We can’t make our own decisions without need checking the opinion of our partner, sister, parent etc. This means we end up doing what other people want.
- We take responsibility for how other people feel and will adjust our behaviour to make them feel better at our own expense.
- We always feel hard done by and that people don’t respect/appreciate us.
- We are overly concerned with others’ opinion of us.
When we lack boundaries and take responsibility for other people’s emotions, we will end up exhausted, burnt out, angry, resentful, stressed and sick.
Have you noticed that your body will say No when you can’t? Our body is intuitive and will say No on our behalf through migraines, tension, fatigue or digestive problems.
We teach people how to treat us, and we need to accept responsibility for how others continually treat us; otherwise, we allow others to victimise us.
Examples of my professional boundaries:
- I don’t have personal relationships with my clients. They’re lovely people, but I don’t have the availability for hundreds of friends.
- I set a boundary that yoga classes start on time, and the doors are locked. Clients respect this boundary and learn to show up on time.
- I don’t answer the phone after hours, and I don’t work on my days off. As a business owner, the temptation is to work seven days a week and be available 24/7. This drained my energy and made me resentful, so I stopped. Now I have the time and energy for the things that are important to me.
- I set clear boundaries around late cancellations, and if that boundary is crossed, clients will incur a fee. While this may seem harsh and uncaring, the boundary is in place to protect the viability of the studio. I would rather keep my business alive than be seen as nice.
Keys to healthy boundaries
If we don’t set boundaries, we end up letting ourselves down. Without healthy boundaries, we prioritise others’ needs over our own. If we’d rather disappoint ourselves than let someone else down, we will have no time and energy for ourselves.
- Boundaries are established to protect ourselves, not to upset others.
- Boundaries must be communicated – if people don’t know our boundaries, they will likely cross them.
- We must be willing to uphold the boundary. There is no point communicating a boundary if we don’t enforce the consequences of the boundary being crossed.
Boundaries and self-abandonment
Sometimes we bend our boundaries so that we appear nice or likeable. People-pleasing is a form of manipulation where we abandon our own needs for the approval of others. While people pleasing might help us to feel more in control of situations and how other’s perceive us, it leads to self-abandonment, self-betrayal and ultimately frustration, resentment and poor emotional health.
Self-abandonment and putting others’ needs ahead of our own is also a form of external validation – needing other people to validate us/affirm our worth rather than feeling inherently worthy/valuable. If we can’t be content with ourselves without the approval and validation of others, we will be miserable.
Self- reflection questions
What are my work boundaries?
What are my boundaries with my family?
Who do I struggle to set/uphold boundaries with?
What am I avoiding when I get involved in others’ business?
Why do I prefer weak boundaries and jeopardising my own health over setting boundaries and risking other’s being upset with me?
How do I feel when I say no to someone?
When did I last say yes to something I secretly didn’t want to do?
Do I feel like I deserve respect or do I have to earn it by being ‘nice’?
Am I a people-pleaser? When do I do this? Can I see that this was a coping mechanism from my past?
Healthy boundaries can improve our physical, emotional and mental health. Boundaries are often the missing ingredient in our self-care. We don’t hesitate to look after our physical health, yet we struggle to stand up for ourselves, which is arguably more beneficial than green juice and activewear.
We all want to have energy, time and space to pursue our own interests; this is the benefit of healthy boundaries.
Do you find it hard to set boundaries? Do you feel weighed down by the expectations of others? Leave a comment below.
If you want to learn more about emotional mastery, the doors to Yoga Alchemy are opening soon.