How to Set Your Boundaries. Can you say No?

How to Set Your Boundaries. Can you say No?

We as a people [specifically as women] find creating and sticking to boundaries unreasonably difficult. Why though? Well for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, as children, we are taught not to have any at all. We regularly break down every boundary a child has in the name of obedience, efficiency, safety. And I'm not knocking it because actually it's necessary in most contexts and keeps children safe whilst 'socialising' them. Secondly, as women, we are really taught only to set certain boundaries as 'approval based behaviour'. Does that sound controversial? Generally, women are only encouraged to set boundaries around sex and personal safety. How many times have you heard ' don't walk down a dark street', your skirt is too short' etc? And then we grow up and do all the housework on top of our day jobs.

Of course, it has certain genetic purposes, as a mother you are primed to respond to your childs' needs more than your own. The human race would die out if all mothers were selfish and self-centred.

In work for both men and women, your boss/line manager is right. At all times. Why? Success is its own end goal. We are trained to succeed at almost all costs. 'Do what you need to get ahead'. 'Work hard, play hard'. Success is everything. How many of you check emails on Saturday and Sunday? How many of you have gone to work over a weekend? I have!

Every one of these trainings subliminally tells you 'what you want doesn't matter.' Follow the rules for the greater good! So for many of us the first time we hit the need for a boundary, is when we feel so violated, it's causing us pain. And we start looking around for a way to stop the pain; that is, our boundaries are totally breached and broken before we set them. Then comes the next problem. Based on all our training, we've got no idea or skill set on how to set boundaries. Usually, we start with shouting. Until we realise it's not working. Then we move to negotiating. Pleading. Despair, resentment and anger.


A simple 3 step process based on the outline created by Greg McKeown 'The Disciplined Pursuit of Less'':


Think about swimming in a common pool. If you don't put up lane dividers between a play area and lane swimming you have to constantly keep a watch out for what everyone is doing. When you have a clear area for playing and swimming you have the freedom to choose what you want to do and not worry about anyone else. When you decide what suits you, and more importantly, what doesn't suit you, you have the freedom to choose whatever you want. And you are also free to change it whenever you choose. But if you don't choose your boundaries, you can end up imprisoned by the limits others have set for you.



Most people when asked to identify their boundaries find it really hard. They know they have some, but they can't put them into words. The simple reality is, if you can't articulate these to yourself you will never be able to make them clear enough to anyone else so they can respect them and follow them.

To find your dealbreakers: Go over the last week and write down every time someone asked you to do something or be somewhere and it made you feel bad. This includes sheer rage all the way to a fleeting desire to not do the request. These can be requests, opportunities, an SOS from a friend, or even a favour. Rewrite these as 'I don't want to be/do ... EVER again.' Ignore the feelings of guilt, shame or worry. Test them over the next few weeks and voila, you are 'boundary - creating'.


I remember hearing a story about why most marriages don't work. The crux of the story was that men treated their wives they way their fathers treated their mothers. And women treated their husbands the way their mothers treated their fathers. All without once having a conversation about what each one was up to! Imagine instead sitting down and saying 'here's what really matters to me....What really matters to you?'

Imagine drafting a base from which you operated all your social interactions with all the people in your life? Imagine the difference in ease, joy, happiness and total lack of stress that would lead to? And yes there are always going to be people who just WON'T LISTEN. But you know what? You now know that, and even better, because you know how it makes you feel, you can choose how you interact with them. And sometimes that will be, I can't get rid of you so I will make the best of it. That too is a choice and a boundary. What do you find the most difficult boundaries to set? Let us know on Twitter @noshdetox :)



P.S. If you do want a complimentary Diagnostic Health Session with me click here to book in I'd love to see you. It lasts 45 minutes and can be done in person or on Skype.