Most women are natural born people-pleasers, and there’s no denying we want to do it all. However, not all hope is lost. In this personal reflection, Janey Piroli tells us why building better boundaries at home and work is necessary to live your best life. Here’s a great example of how you can set yourself free with a little willpower.
“Building Better Boundaries”
By Janey Piroli
I was puzzled when she suggested it, but quickly agreed.
The truth was that I was mad at my own values. Then I reflected…
All of my life I took pride in being a compassionate and caring person. Always willing to lend a helping hand, go the extra mile, and give more than asked. Never worrying or asking about my own needs—or having to think about building better boundaries with loved ones.
This was true whether it was in my personal or professional life.
The comment above came from a good friend who was supporting me through the difficult end of a long-term relationship. I found comfort in being mad at my values.
I resented them and blamed my values for putting me in this situation.
That was until I learned about Brené Brown’s research on shame and vulnerability. In her book Daring Greatly, she claims that the most compassionate people are the most “boundaried” people, and without them, you are destined to feel resentment. This made me sit back and take notice of my own life.
I still remember the moment when I realized I had to face the brutal truth. I had no boundaries and no one to blame but myself.
You see, I was raised in a family with alcoholism and domestic violence. I learned early in my life that pleasing others kept things safe.
Over time, I built my self-worth up by learning to respond with a bright smile; and a “Yes, of course I can!” attitude to any request that came my way. As you can imagine, I had a fear of disappointing others (still do), regardless of the consequences.
At work, this would translate into adding a pile of new projects onto my plate and burning the midnight oil night to get it all done. In relationships, this meant that I would focus on the other person’s needs—sacrificing my own along the way.
Merriam-Webster defines boundaries as “something that indicates or fixes a limit”. What I soon learned is that boundaries help to give you your power back. By defining your limits and being clear, you can stand confidently in your integrity.
Thankfully, I now know how to say “yes” to something and feel good about it when I do. I am also clear about the times and situations where I need to respond with a firm “no”— even when I recognize that I will risk disappointing others.
It has taken much courage and some uncomfortable conversations to learn to express my own needs, but I have taken Brené’s advice and am choosing courage over comfort when it comes to setting (and holding) myself accountable for my own actions.
For those of you who are learning to set and build your own boundaries, here is my advice:
Get clear on your values
Take the time you need to identify what matters most to you in your life. Reflect on whether or not you are living true to your values. Do your choices, actions, and behaviours line up?
For example, well-being is a core value for me. I have committed to meditating in the mornings and exercising at least 4 days a week. I make sure to plan this time in my calendar and commit to myself first before filling the space with all of life’s other demands.
Pay attention to how you feel
Notice the situations where you are feeling or carrying some level of resentment. You might consider taking out your journal and writing about it. What is it that you are feeling? What is driving the resentment? What boundary could help minimize the negative feelings? Where could you hold yourself more accountable to respecting your boundaries?
Finding my personal balance between work-life priorities has always been my greatest challenge. I have come to recognize that when feelings of resentment surface working late nights or on weekends, I only have myself to blame. I challenge myself to think about how I got into the situation.
Did I respond with a willing “yes” when I really meant “no” or “not now”?
Although I am clearer on them today than I have been in the past, I am not perfect when it comes to living my boundaries. These moments of reflection remind me that it is about progress—not perfection—and give me the opportunity to recommit holding myself accountable on the day-to-day.
Find your words
It takes time and practice to get comfortable setting boundaries. Being ready with some simple responses can make all the difference. When approached to take on additional work, you might find it easier to say, “I’m maxed out right now” versus a direct “no”—or suggest that your co-worker speak to someone else.
Bringing an authentic voice to your boundaries, and sharing them with others, can also be a big help.
Furthermore, if you have committed to making space for yourself and family in the evenings, let your colleagues know that you won’t be responding to emails in the evenings, or that they might not hear from you until after the kids have gone to bed. This sets realistic expectations.
It takes time and practice
I have learned that building better boundaries is an act of care and kindness towards oneself.
Again, Brené Brown reinforces that the most “boundaried” people are also the most compassionate. I believe this stems from having enough self-compassion to stand in your truth and hold yourself accountable to living a truly authentic life.
The best part of it all, however, is that compassion is one of my core values—which means that this journey took me from being mad at my values to loving them more deeply.
All the best to you in your journey!
Editor’s note: If you enjoyed this article, check out “How To Love Being Perfectly Imperfekt” next.