Why Are Boundaries So Hard? (and 3 tips to make them easier)
RAFT Team, August 2, 2021
Boundaries are a way to outline your expectations for yourself and those around you. They mark where and where not to give permission in different areas of your life. But they’re often tough to outline, and if you’re not used to them, tough to enforce. You may think boundaries can sound rude. Or selfish. Or just plain mean. These are all the negative connotations of boundaries. You may not realize the positives as easily.
Boundaries are a tool to allow you to give your best self to the world.
Maybe you need time to recover after a taxing week at work. Take your work email off your phone so you won’t be tempted to check it on your days off. (Read more about how to take a digital detox and why you might need it.) Maybe you’re an introvert and function best with only 2-3 work interactions a day. If possible, when those 2-3 slots each day are full, schedule further meetings on another day. The beauty of boundaries is that people don’t have to know why they’re there, or what you’re doing with your time when you say no to something.
Boundaries are also a tool to practice self-care.
Challenge yourself to put self-care on your calendar daily, and treat it like a meeting that you can’t reschedule. Maybe your energy and creativity sags at 2:30 every day. Schedule a walk to recharge, get your blood moving, and breathe in fresh air. Don’t answer your phone. Don’t agree to a last-minute meeting. This is saying no to others for bit in order to say yes to your own wellness. Simply let people know you’re busy during that 30 minutes and get to walking.
Here's why boundaries can be difficult.
Enforcing boundaries may be uncomfortable.
It may feel like you’re being selfish. Or dishonest. Or self-indulgent. But this may be the thing that allows you to think more clearly, develop more creative solutions, or clarify your values. It may be difficult to say no to the people you’re used to saying yes to every single time they ask. Boundaries in relationships are especially tough!
They take practice.
Which means they may start out as uncomfortable but tend to get easier the more you experience their benefits. When you see that boundaries allow you to prioritize the things that matter most, you’re more able to give yourself permission to enforce them.
If you’re like many, and have a difficult time enforcing boundaries, write out a few things that will help you strengthen your relationships and experience more joy. Be specific. Consider your health in the following areas:
- Time & Energy
Once you’ve written them out, add the benefit you will receive if you enforce these boundaries.
They take support.
Ask a few people you love and trust to help you with your boundaries. It may be a weekly check in on how you’re doing. They might be willing to be your encouragement when you find yourself faltering.
Check in with yourself weekly. Put 15 minutes on your calendar and protect that time no matter what. Review your boundaries. Think about how you did during the week. What worked? What didn’t work? Brainstorm a few ways you can strengthen those boundaries in the coming week.
And in this intentionality, you’ll be building your boundary practice, and learning much about yourself and the beautiful gifts you bring to the world.