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Revisiting boundaries

Revisiting boundaries

It’s been a week where there’s been lots of client conversations about the perennially challenging topic of boundaries, so this week I thought I’d revisit some practical suggestions and strategies around how we might create, communicate, and enforce boundaries in our lives.  The reality of setting and maintaining boundaries require us to get really, REALLY good at regularly revisiting, refining, and often reinforcing our boundaries.

First, you need to know yourself:

To be able to put in place boundaries in life, we firstly need to do a bit of introspection and self-awareness work. We need to know what boundaries might have been created as a trauma-response. (It can be ok if they are btw, but you do need to know that’s why you’ve created a boundary.  After that, it’s time to get really clear about what matters to us, we won’t know where those murky lines are that feel uncomfortable when crossed.  One place to start is understanding your personal values.  I’ve done a blog on this before so if you haven’t read that one CLICK HERE to do a bit of values clarification first.

Another way to understand yourself better is to ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. People may not ____________
  2. I have the right to ask for ____________
  3. To protect my time and energy it’s ok to ___________

Answer each of the three questions with at least 10 different examples and pretty soon you’ll start to see some areas of your life that need boundaries.

There’s also the very reliable reflective practice that encourages you to pay close attention to feelings of guilt, shame or resentment because these unpleasant feelings usually arise when core beliefs are being trampled on, we are over-committing ourselves, over-functioning or not speaking up when we really need to.  If you feel you are saying “yes” when you really want to shout “NO” then it’s pretty clear indication that some boundary-work is needed!  Speaking of which, here’s a great podcast from my great friend and colleague Jenny Burrell that looks at this exact issue, CLICK HERE to listen to it.

Putting boundaries in place:

Once we know where the gaps or needs are, then it’s time to figure out how to go about putting our boundaries down.  I quite like this diagram from as a guide to what this might look like:

Essentially, setting boundaries requires having straightforward conversations with other people – and sometimes ourselves too!  It’s important that we have those conversations clearly and simply without too much waffle or justifications.  The whole reason we do the self-awareness work earlier in the process is to clearly identify our own person values and beliefs – they’re unique to each of us and do not need to be justified to anyone.

It’s uncomfortable to start with, saying “no” and being assertive.  However, the clearer we are at the outset and the more transparent we are about what the consequences for when boundaries are over-stepped then the easier things get over time.  Remember, when you back your boundary, you actually allow the other person to take responsibility for their own stuff – that was never yours to manage anyway!

Helpful alternatives to the straightforward “no”:

  • Thank you, but I’ll pass this time round
  • I’m not taking on new projects at the moment
  • It doesn’t sound like quite the right fit for me
  • I’ll have to sleep on that because I make it a personal policy to not make decisions straight away
  • I appreciate your time but it’s not for me
  • That really doesn’t work for me, my work and family schedule

Oh, and one last thing, I heard this great podcast interview on Ten Percent Happier with Nedra Glover Tawwab who is pretty much a boundaries guru so if you’d like to go deeper with this topic click HERE.


If you’d like help with navigating your boundaries better, please reach out to us at Thea Baker Wellbeing: / 03 9077 8194.