In my last post, I shared a few thoughts on overwhelmed schedules and our best yes. Today, I asked leader friend and licensed professional counselor, Tiffany Ashenfelter, to give us some background on why boundaries are so important and how to implement them. Enjoy!
We live in a world full of boundaries: like fences, the lines in a parking lot, our office space etc…But what does it look like personally and professionally?
To put it as simply as possible, boundaries are a dividing line between what is you and what is someone else.
One of my favorite books on the subject is Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life written by Cloud & Townsend (a must read for everyone!). They describe personal boundaries this way: “in the spiritual world boundaries are just as real (compared to property/fence lines) but often harder to see.” They are “an ever present reality that can increase your love and save your life. In reality, these boundaries define your soul…” Now to me, that is such a powerful statement about the importance of healthy boundaries in our lives. Boundaries give us personal identity and help us to protect ourselves.
There are 4 main areas in which we create boundaries for ourselves:
- Physical – think personal space
- Emotional – managing your emotions and how you respond to the emotions of others
- Mental – having the freedom to manage your own thoughts and opinions
- Spiritual – how you manage and maintain your spiritual life
While often times we think that boundaries keep people out, or are selfish, the reverse is actually true. When we have established healthy boundaries with those in our life we actually gain a greater sense of safety and freedom. Without boundaries, anger and resentment build up and actually hurt our relationships.
So how do we set boundaries?
The first rule to setting healthy boundaries is to know yourself. Our definition of boundaries is the dividing line between what is you and what is someone else. To set and follow through with healthy boundaries you need to know what they are and clearly communicate them. (Check out my blog on healthy communication skills to learn more about how to effectively communicate your boundaries.)
So, we’ve set the boundary. Now what?
Once we’ve identified our boundaries, we need to establish a consequence for if/when the boundary is not respected. A boundary with no consequences isn’t really a boundary at all. When it comes to creating a consequence, we need to make sure it’s realistic and something with which we are willing to live. We also need to be prepared for the fact that as a result of setting healthy boundaries our relationships will likely change. This isn’t always a bad thing, especially if the relationship is fraught with unhealthy boundaries. Remember healthy boundaries create freedom and safety within ourselves and our relationships. I won’t pretend this easy to do; it can be very difficult but the result makes it worth it. (Be sure to check out my 3 tips to having a difficult conversation as you prepare to communicate your boundaries.)
Remember, without boundaries we are at the mercy of others. Healthy boundaries allow us to live and lead without resentment or guilt.
Tiffany Ashenfelter is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Approved Supervisor in private practice in Dallas. Tiffany works with women and teens struggling to manage and overcome the many curveballs life throws at us. She also partners with her husband Michael, a counselor as well, to help couples work through the many challenges they face within their marriage on both a joint and individual level. Tiffany has served on the leadership team for Polish: Refining the Details for the past 5 years. You can follow Tiffany on Twitter @AshenfelterAsso and find out more about Ashenfelter & Associates counseling practice online.