As female entrepreneurs we often struggle on how to set healthier boundaries with our colleagues, clients and even family members, but it often comes at a cost to our wellbeing and our mental health. Setting boundaries for yourself and honouring those of others can be a healthy change to your personal happiness and even success in business and life.
The word “boundary” can be a bit misleading. It conveys the idea of keeping yourself separate. But boundaries are actually connecting points since they provide healthy rules for navigating relationships, intimate or professional.
“We all have limits, and boundaries communicate that line.”
So let’s begin: The 6 ways to set healthier boundaries for your own health and wellbeing.
1. Define Your Limits
The first step before you can set healthier boundaries is defining your limits of what is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to your relationships. When you think about the different relationships that you have in your personal and professional life – consider the areas that need addressing.
Do you often allow people take your time and energy when you should be doing other things? Do people reach out for free and friendly consultations leaving you feeling like you have given too much? Do you sometimes feel like you are being undervalued and taken for granted? These might be the indicators that your boundaries are too weak.
Define the line at which you should be saying NO, by recognising the feelings you endure when someone cross those limits. Emotional intelligence and your intuition should help and guide you here, when trying to identify those limits.
2. Give Yourself Premission to Say No
Saying NO can be the hardest thing if you are a kind and giving person – but this two letter word NO is the most powerful tool to setting healthy boundaries in your relationships.
When you say Yes to everything and everyone around you it can leave you feeling depleted and drained out of your own energy and time. If you want to take control of your life and empower yourself with boundaries you will need to learn to start using the word NO more often and give yourself the full permission to do so.
You are not a bad person for saying no to a coffee meeting, or a phone call that you know is not serving you. Or saying no to a client who perhaps has been asking for too much. The more you practice the word NO in situation that do not serve your higher purpose, the more empowered you will feel about making choices that are for your own good and wellbeing. Also, people will learn your boundaries and next time will think twice before asking you for things that are outside of those limits.
Remember – You are your No 1 priority.
3. Remove Yourself From Negativity
You may have experienced this before – someone bringing their drama to you and while you kindly lending them an ear, in turn leaving you feeling drained and rubbed off your positivity. Finding yourself time and time again being the shoulder to cry on, but you friend not doing anything to change their behavior.
Unfortunately, some people are like that, and their drama has a way of sapping at your energy. People will always be quick to share their heavy burdens with you if you keep those gates open to them.
In order to protect yourself from feeling depleted by other people’s drama you need to remove yourself from negative people and situation that has nothing to do with you or are distractions in your life. If someone keeps coming back to you with the same issues, you have to consider that it may be them that is the cause of the situation and not just situation happening to them.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t help your friend in need – but you should not become the person doing the heavy lifting for someone’s constant negativity or emotional needs. If you feel like someone has been putting too much burden on you, simply say that you are currently unavailable or have own personal circumstances to deal with and gently remove yourself from the negative situation that has crossed your path and left you feeling depleted.
4. You always Have the Right to Choose
Our boundaries often become blurred when we give up our power to choose and let other dictate what is right for us. Remember – you have the basic human right to make your own choices without judgment or condemn. Here are few reminders of what you have the right to do without justification to anyone:
- You have the right to say no without feeling guilty
- You have the right to be treated with respect
- You have the right to make your needs as important as others
- You have the right to make your own mistakes and learn from them
- You have the right NOT to meet others’ unreasonable expectations of you
- You have the right to your own personal space and boundaries
- You have the right to remove yourself from things that makes you feel uncomfortable
Once you identify your rights and choose to believe in them, you’ll find honouring them much easier. When honouring them, you will stop spending energy pleasing other people and denying your own needs.
5. Follow Your Gut Instinct
As women our gut feeling and instinct can be a powerful tool to help determine when someone is violating our boundaries or when you need to set one up in order to protect yourself.
Check in with your body, your heart rate, your breathing, tightness in your chest, stomach or throat – these physical symptoms will usually tell you what you can handle or where healthy boundaries may need to be set.
Let’s say when someone reaches out to you for partnership – and after a while they start asking you too much, without giving you much or the same in return. You may start to feel uncomfortable, frustrated or maybe even resentful. Check in with yourself and don’t wait for ‘the big reason’ to escalate before you draw the line to say no – simply follow your gut feeling and walk away if you have inner in-cling that the situation is not serving your higher good.
Ask yourself – is this serving me or is this relationship one sided?
6. Be Assertive
This is the big question – how do we instil these boundaries?
When you set healthier boundaries it is important to be assertive and stick to your word. Just like parenting – if you tell your child that they can not have cupcake before dinner – but you then turn around and give them a sweet, that is going against what you are trying to teach your child. Same goes with adult relationships – if you said No to someone, don’t be guilt tripped by others or your own mind to turning around to saying yes. Being assertive about your decision and sticking to your word will help draw the line of where you should set healthier boundaries, drawing an invisible line that should not be crossed.
Stay assertive and committed to your limits, and you will find people treating you with more respect.
How to recognise and honour other people’s boundaries?
Having a universal guide in helping us assess and establish boundaries would be helpful, but that is not the case, as everyone is different and you have to protect yourself, as well as be mindful of other people, so you don’t overstep others. It all comes down to having a better communication and being aware of other people’s space.
Remember: everyone is different and your comfort level may be different to others’ so always be mindful and respectful to their boundaries as well as your own.
1. Watch for Cues
When you are interacting with someone always watch for cues to give you an indication of their boundaries and comfort levels. Some people may not like to be too open about certain things about their lives, or feel uncomfortable about their personal space being intruded, others may prefer to receive a message over a phone call, so always be mindful of how to treat others to respect their boundaries. Some cues to watch out for:
– Someone avoiding contact (physical or virtual)
– Someone stepping back or retrieving
– Limited conversation or response
When you sense a cue give the person some space and allow them to come to you when they are ready to engage.
Never underestimate the power of asking – if in doubt always check with the person. There is nothing wrong with establishing the comfort level or boundaries from the outset. Let’s say you are working with a new business coach and you know you are the kind of person who like a lot of communication and nurture, – ask them how best to communicate with them, and what is acceptable. So you don’t become one of those annoying clients who oversteps their welcome in someone’s inbox.
Also, when working with your virtual assistant or service provider for your business – ask them about their working hours and what is acceptable.
And remember – set healthier boundaries but this goes both ways in any relationship, so always be mindful.
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Women In Business Founder
Raimonda Jankunaite is an inspiring public speaker on entrepreneurship, women in business and technology and crowdfunding. She is a founder of the Women In Business international community and events.
She thrives on seeing other women succeed in life and business, that is why she dedicated the last few years in Mentoring, Coaching and Empowering Women through the work of the Women in Business Club.
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