How To Set & Hold Boundaries

December 29, 2022

I'm Dr. Britt
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Gimme that

I hope that you had some amazing holidays because if you’re reading this, I took some time off! I spent time with my family and I was just taking care of myself. Today I actually spent most of the day painting… you know, when my child was napping or I could get her to paint with me. I had the BEST time painting, it’s one of the things that I do to take care of myself. It’s also a way that I set a boundary for my time; this is a time that I choose not to be plugged into technology and all of these things that are going on in today’s world. My husband helps me hold this boundary by choosing to protect a certain amount of time for me to allow me to paint. So, if you have not already guessed what we are going to talk about today, we are going to talk about boundaries.

You must have boundaries in order to function well and to not feel like a doormat to the people in your life. We really do need to have boundaries everywhere in our lives. Boundaries do not just protect you from what is outside but it also safeguards what is on the inside. Hear me–having boundaries has a lot to do with your peace, your joy, your relationships, your dreams, and so much more! We need boundaries in every area of our lives. You gotta have ‘em, sis! So,I hope that as you read this today, you are already thinking about what boundaries you have and what areas you may be lacking in.

Boundaries Can Be Hard

I am mentally just taking a deep sigh because boundaries can be really hard. Personally, I get concerned about hurting people’s feelings. I don’t want to hurt anyone. Maybe you don’t want to deal with the pain and discomfort in yourself when setting boundaries. I understand that it can sometimes be easier to deal with things internally than to deal with someone else’s pain and/or discomfort. Maybe you have absolutely no idea how to set a boundary. Maybe confrontation is scary AF for you – that’s a PhD word for you (AF). 😉 Maybe you think things like “what if they get mad?” or “what if they leave me?” or worse “what if I lose their love?” Isn’t that interesting to think about though – to lose someone’s love by just having a boundary? Maybe you lack the self confidence to set boundaries. Maybe you got in trouble as a kid when you went to set boundaries. Maybe you are afraid that something bad may happen if you set a boundary like losing your job.

I told you a story previously about how younger Brittany struggled with sexual harassment in the workplace. It was hard for me to set a boundary because I felt bad for him. I didn’t want him to lose his job. My adult self (two decades ago) is like “girl, you gotta do the thing and get on with your bad self”. Friend, if any of these maybe statements hit home with you, this is for you because likely you have sacrificed something authentic in you to maintain some sort of love, connection, job, etc. And sis, anyone who sacrifices authenticity on a regular basis, lacks internal peace and tends to have chronic anxiety and/or body pain. My hope today is to help you – my best friend, understand that boundaries are to help you protect what is inside.

Where To Start

First you need to make a list! Yes, you need to make a list of things that work for you (both positive and negative) and what doesn’t work for you. You need to be really specific about what behaviors and emotions work for you and which do not. You want to identify your values and desires. While diving into values is a conversation for another time, values and desires are what guide us as humans and can help you set your boundaries.

One of my personal values is peace. I really value peace. For example, I have a young daughter (my little person) and I do not allow my little person to speak to me in a rude way because it interrupts the peace of my home and my heart. It also interrupts her own peace. Values guide behaviors.

If you are thinking about this right now, make a three column list. Label the left column, positive non-negotiable. Label the right column, negative non-negotiable. Finally, label the middle, negotiable. If I were to make this list for relationships, I would have something like the example below.

Prepare for the Conversation

Sis, first you have to deal with yourself. If you are going to have a discussion about boundaries, you have to deal with your baggage and your emotions ahead of time. And you need to handle the obvious which is pick a good time to have the conversation. Do not just choose a time that is simply convenient for you because your message may not be received the way you want it to be if they are in the middle of something else. I know some of my besties out there are the type that when you set your mind to something, you are on your way right now to do it. By the way, that is the pushing of a boundary that often doesn’t give us the result we had hoped for or even actually needed. Creating boundaries requires modeling what a boundary looks like.

The next thing you need to do is decide what you want to get out of this conversation. What do you want? I cannot help but think about the notebook right now. I want you to think about what is it that you want to get out of the conversation.

And by the way, if you already know what some of the objections may be during the conversation, be prepared to address them. You do this with positive language, positive suggestions, and the better you know them, the easier it will be to do this.

Your Guide to Setting Boundaries

Sis, I am about to walk you through the steps to setting boundaries. Up to this point, I have been preparing you for the steps…. So here they are!

  1. Set the intention or get agreement – Say something to the effect of “I want to have a talk with you about things that are going great and things we can agree on” or “I want to set some boundaries.” You are just setting up the conversation and making sure you have a good rapport with the person (be sure you can see their body language and that they are not disengaged). Any conversation you try to have with someone who is disengaged is set up to fail… or not go well at the very best.
  2. Pre-framing – Make sure that they verbally acknowledge they understand the purpose and goal of the conversation while disarming possible objections. For example, “this conversation is going to be about how you interact with me at work and I want to avoid it being about what I wear or how I carry myself. This conversation is about your behavior towards me”.
  3. Give any tangible positives – Provide a positive because most humans are not completely bad people.
  4. Describe the violation – Explain what the behavior was that crossed the line and that this is the first time you are setting the boundary.
  5. Explain the win – Explain the desired behavior going forward. You can say something to the effect of “going forward, we can say hello in the office but the conversation is not going to go beyond that.” You gain agreement by asking the question “Do you agree with that?”
  6. Give the consequence moving forward – You must do this in a positive way by using language such as “If you do __, I will __”. The consequence you set here must be something you are actually willing to do in the event the boundary is crossed again. If you do not act on said consequences, people learn that you do not mean what you say and you are telling your unconscious mind that you are untrustworthy. You have to keep your promises to yourself. As a side not, I have to be careful about this with my child. I have to be very careful with what I threaten when I set a boundary because I have to think through “do I want to enforce this?” I need my daughter to trust my word that when I say I am going to do something, that I do it.
  7. Wrap-up the conversation – Thank them for their time and agreement. Use positive language like “I appreciate you and your time. I believe that we are not going to have this issue going forward”.

You have to take the steps to walk out your boundaries. I am hoping that as you have read through this, you are realizing that this isn’t as hard as you may have thought. You must focus on what you can control because we cannot control the behaviors of others. We can set a boundary and then we get to decide what we want to do if that boundary is crossed. Sis, this happens across all areas of life – marriage, relationships, technology, etc. and the boundaries we set are designed to protect us.

I am encouraging you that you can set boundaries. You can do it. I am reminding you friend that you can do this! Close your eyes and imagine yourself setting these boundaries. Practice doesn’t make perfect, sis. Practice makes routine and routine makes a habit. I honestly think that with boundaries, you have to do it afraid. Boundaries can be really scary if you have never done them before. Confrontation can be really scary, but being a martyr is not a healthy thing. And if you will commit to yourself to do it afraid, what you are doing is affirming to yourself that you are important, your peace matters, your joy matters, these things in my life matter. You can do it!

In true Dr. Britt fashion, I want to leave you with some questions.

  1. Where do you need to have boundaries that you haven’t?
  2. What are your non-negotiables both positive and negative?
  3. What are you negotiables?
  4. When would right now be the right time to do it afraid?
  5. What do you need to say to yourself to encourage you to do it?
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