How To Create Healthy Boundaries For More Success

by | Nov 1, 2018 | Marriage, Mindset, Personal Growth, Relationships

Sometimes It’s Hard To Say “No”

Darla worked as a full-time home care nurse. She was good at her job and loved it. She had a great sense of worth and accomplishment from her job.

She also had 3 beautiful kids: 2 boys and a girl.

The children were busy with hockey and band, so Darla was involved in her children’s school. She was president of the band association…

And anytime there was volunteer work to be done, people called Darla because they knew she’d get the job done.

The community also had regular card parties and she was often asked to make sandwiches for it.

On top of all of this, Darla was very involved in her church singing on the worship team, which meant extra practices, especially around Christmas time.

Then on Tuesday, her pastor called to ask if she would participate in one more committee. Darla wanted to say “yes” because she genuinely liked to help but she was already feeling overworked, overwhelmed, confused and guilty because of everything she was involved in.

Her life was getting out of control…

When we don’t have good boundaries, that’s what it can feel like.

What Exactly Are Boundaries?

In his book called Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud defines them like this:

“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.”

You can also think of a boundary like a property line.

When you purchase a piece of property, you are responsible for everything on that property.

It’s pretty obvious that your neighbour isn’t responsible for property that you bought and neither are you responsible for your neighbour’s property.

Wouldn’t it be strange if there was a flood on my property and I just threw up my hands and said, “Well, that’s not my problem! Somebody else needs to look after that.”

Of course, it’s my problem! My neighbours would all think that something’s wrong with me if I didn’t fix the mess.

In a similar way, we are completely responsible for ourselves. For our…

  • Thoughts
  • Opinions
  • Values
  • Feelings
  • Spiritual world
  • Talents
  • Body
  • Time
  • Money
  • Limits

How Can We Set Healthy Boundaries?

Again, if we think about the example of owning a piece of property, sometimes we build a fence when we want to be really clear about where our property line is. A fence has different purposes but one thing it does is keep people off your property.

Similarly, when we say “no” we are making it clear what we want and don’t want.

However, even if we build a fence we can still have a gate; sometimes we let people inside the gate and other times we choose to keep people out.

When we let people inside the gate, we’re inviting them into our world. But when we keep the gate closed, we’re saying “no” to people; we don’t want them in our world.

Why Are Boundaries Important, Anyway?

Knowing, accepting and loving ourselves is the beginning of being able to set good boundaries in our lives.

Boundaries are good for relationships and good for our lives. They not only help to keep us sane at a very basic level, but they also allow us to flourish because we keep out the bad and let in the good.

At the same time, sometimes when we say “no” we’re not turning down someone or something bad, we might simply not have the time to do it.

The bottom line is that we can’t be all things to all people.

So in order to create healthy boundaries, we need to learn 3 simple things:

  1. I need to know who I am and who I’m not.  
  2. I need to accept who I am.
  3. I need to love who I am.

What Happens When People Don’t Respect Our Boundaries?

Unfortunately, not everyone will respect our boundaries and one sign that this is beginning to happen is that we begin to feel resentful. We may not like what other people are doing and so we begin to experience negative emotions toward them.

Another sign that our boundaries are being crossed is when we start to feel guilty.

Our desire may be to help someone, but we’re simply not able to offer as much help as they need or we want to give and so that morphs into guilt.

When our boundaries are crossed often enough or for long enough, we can start to feel confused and a lack of control over our lives. This isn’t good because we begin to feel powerless when, in fact, we do have the power and control over our lives for a great many choices.

Two Emotions That Signal People Have Crossed Our Boundaries

Feelings of guilt and resentment are two signs that we don’t have healthy boundaries in our lives. And if we’re not setting good boundaries with others, it’s our responsibility to make changes because we’re the ones who have allowed people to treat us with disrespect in the first place.  

Dr. Henry Cloud says in his book Boundaries in Marriage “that you get what you tolerate”.

Keep in mind that others may not always like the boundaries we set with them and that’s okay because our goal in life is not to make other people happy all the time. Our purpose is to become the women that God has created us to be.

People who truly love and respect us will adjust and honour our boundaries.  

It’s also important to recognize that feeling guilty or resentful when our boundaries are crossed is actually good because these emotions are signaling to us that something is wrong.

These feelings give us the opportunity to get back on track with developing healthy relationships with ourselves and others.

One Simple Strategy To Figure Out When To Say “No”

“No” is an important word in relationships. It helps people to know who we are and where our limits are, where we begin and where we end.

Here’s a simple strategy to figure out when it’s time to say “no”…

  1. List out your top 5 priorities in life right now.
  2. Label them from 1 to 5 beginning with the most important priority and ending with the least important priority.

For example, imagine that these are the priorities you’ve written out:

  1. Husband
  2. Parents
  3. Work
  4. Church
  5. Little Fifi (your pet rabbit)

Now, let’s say that two of these are in conflict with each other. There’s an event happening at church but your parents need you.

It’s pretty easy to decide what to do once you know what your priorities are.

This simple strategy can also be used for work. If you find it difficult to set good boundaries at work and you’re always saying “yes” to people, list out your top 5 priorities at work. Then when a colleague asks you for help, you can gauge whether you will help them based on your priorities.  

And finally, remember that “no” is always an option.

About Ann

Ann is on a mission to equip Christian women to communicate confidently and clearly for a closer connection. The good news? Communication is a skill so anyone can learn it even if you’re struggling to communicate right now. Want to communicate more clearly and confidently?…

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Ann Visser


Life Coach

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