Group Discussion: How Do You Create Boundaries?

We are launching a new monthly series this month called ‘Group Discussion.”  Our readers are our greatest resource. So to tap into the wealth of information and life experiences you have, we want to ask you to participate in robust, timely and thoughtful conversations each month. 

Lately, I’ve been analyzing relationships and thinking about the importance of creating boundaries. I turn 40 towards the end of the year, and as I’ve grown, I’ve learned so much about myself. For me, boundaries are essential to maintaining my mental health. But I’m not great at enforcing them.

Group Discussion: How Do you Create Boundaries?

My challenge is my need to please, which thankfully is slowly losing its hold over me. But it’s still important to me to be considered friendly and helpful. 

For this first post, we want to know how you manage to create healthy boundaries. Whether it’s at work or with family and friends, having clear boundaries is empowering, gives you control in your life and is the basis of a strong relationship.

So our questions to you today:

How have you created healthy boundaries in your life?

When did you know you needed to put them in place?

Finally, how can we teach our daughters and younger women to implement them earlier in life, and not wait until they are staring down the barrel of a big birthday?

We’ll chat back and forth in the comments and edit this post with your best take aways over time. 

 

Group Discussion: How Do You Create Boundaries?
Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

12 Comments
  1. Hi Megan! I am so glad you started this conversation! The need, and benefits of clear and healthy boundaries don’t get the kind of attention they deserve.

    I realized I had an issue with boundaries when I stopped and took stock of my life, and the relationships in it. I was a “hot mess” , unhappy and nothing was flowing smoothly. I was surrounded by people that took, rather than gave – and I’d spent so much time focusing on giving to them that I wasn’t taking care of ME. I really suffered for it, and my life even more so. My challenge was giving too much, and usually to my own detriment. I struggled with feeling guilty for NOT giving, doing things for me, and for doing things that I wanted.

    I fixed it by committing to my life and my self. Re-prioritizing my life, so that I was number one. When I felt the old guilt I would remind myself that the best gift I can give the people in my life is the best and happiest version of me.

    I made becoming the very best version of me my top priority, and reminded myself often that I deserve a life that I love. I reached a point where I cared more about LIVING than if I was “giving enough”. I found my “standards” and committed to them. Over time it became easier to set the boundaries and to stand up for myself (and my life) when situations would occur that crossed or blurred the lines.

    And now my life, and even me! Could not be any more different! There’s happiness and ease where once there was only chaos. I’m able to show up for the people in my life in a better way- inspiring and leading by example because I’m just so darn happy! As opposed to following them around like a human tissue doing little good to either of us 😛

    And I do believe that the best way we can inspire our daughters is leading by example, and encouraging them and teaching them to chose themselves as well. To cultivate an atmosphere and environment of authentic and loving empowerment. And inspiring them to do the same by going first, and being open and authentic about the process.

    1. Hey Alicia! What a wonderful comment. Thank you!

      I love this “When I felt the old guilt I would remind myself that the best gift I can give the people in my life is the best and happiest version of me

      That’s so hard to do but so necessary!

      I realized I need to set boundaries when I understood that I am a highly sensitive person. I tend to be the person everyone goes to with issues and challenges, and I love feeling needed and being helpful, but the negativity was consuming after a while and I couldn’t shake it. I had to pull back with some people, which was hard at first, but I think our friendships are better for it now.

      You’re right, once you make yourself #1, everything else falls into place and everyone, including you, are better for it!

  2. I’m 43 and have really never struggled with putting up boundaries and I do credit my mother for this. Growing up she would point out certain women who maybe were giving up too much of themselves at the expense of their own health or mental wellness. Some things she often said/says:
    Speaking to us (her children), friends, school, etc…”I don’t mind helping, but I won’t be a martyr”
    Speaking of those we dated…”You don’t owe him/her anything but the pleasure of your company”
    Regarding how she allowed others to speak to her…”It’s okay for you to be mad, but I’m not your doormat”

    She is a smart woman…She knew how to draw boundaries, but this is not to say she didn’t help others. She also takes food to those who are sick, gives small but thoughtful gifts, and calls to offer encouragement and wisdom.

  3. I am so happy to see a discussion about healthy boundaries. It is such an important topic for women. Looking forward to reading everyone’s experiences and thoughts.

    I realized that I needed to learn how to set boundaries for myself after experiencing some major burnout both personally and professionally. I took a step back and learned about boundaries and being more assertive in communicating them. Very happy that I did.

    I, too, like to be a good and helpful person. Unfortunately, I have a few people in my life who took advantage of that and treated me like a doormat. I received some really horrifying pushback from them when I stood up for myself and asserted my boundaries. It is proof that the boundaries needed to be put in place a long time ago. I am still learning and working on setting healthy boundaries in other areas of my life. I do feel so much better about what I say yes to and spend time with people who respect and value me. Self care is so important to prioritize!

  4. I too am the person people go to in times of trouble. And to a person, those people have not reciprocated when I needed someone to lean on. I used to feel badly about this, as if I wasn’t worthy or I was asking too much, but then after a blatant example I decided to set boundaries. It didn’t go over well. People don’t like change I think. I also had an experience last year when reconnecting with high school friends. As much as I enjoyed catching up, some of the group never left high school it seems. My personal boundaries were not well received by the pushy folks and respected by the more introspective of the group. You can’t make everyone happy but the part of me that wants everyone to get along is sad.

  5. Women are trained as children to look out for how we should serve others, but not trained in how to avoid exploitation and how to *not* give when we shouldn’t, for our own health as well as for the sake of others who should not be encouraged to take too much.

    This tendency can even veer into mental disorders, including Dependent Personality Disorder. I like MedCircle’s educational video about it that I recently shared with a friend who struggles with this issue. https://www.medcircle.com/series/dependent-personality-disorder-over-reliance-53669?fbclid=IwAR0cGppby0FmHcMX0Fm1SINGIjhrYKYGyVnxeKyTuYTOFUY74MtaCciWCVE

    How we were parented deeply influences our superego, the voice that tells us that we are not important enough to tell anyone “No” and that we must give until we have drained our last drop of blood. It takes a lot of work as adults to find our own sense of self and give ourselves permission to be the most important person in our lives.

    I would advise a younger woman to read “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life” by Cloud and Townsend.

    https://smile.amazon.com/Boundaries-Updated-Expanded-When-Control-ebook/dp/B06XFKNB2Y/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1OEWIXW9C0MQF&keywords=boundaries+book&qid=1557361298&s=gateway&sprefix=Boundaries%2Caps%2C160&sr=8-2

  6. I grew up lacking self confidence. I made a decision after I left home that I was going to change. It’s never easy saying “no”, but it’s gotten easier for me. Years ago, I read in a book that no one can say no for you but you. This is a principle I’m trying to instill in my adult daughter, but she has demands on her life that I never had. So instead of “telling” her what to do, I share various viewpoints to help her identify what might work for her. It’s so much easier as I age to know that I don’t have to please others, just my God, my self, my family. Because I’ve been reading more about this lately, I’m trying to identify the things on which I spend my time, the things that “spark joy”.

    On a side note, I’ve been saying lots of extra “no’s” lately to give myself time to grieve the loss of my mother. And I really don’t care if others understand or not. I’m deciding what’s right for me right now. I think we owe it to ourselves to be kind to ourselves whenever we experience any type of traumatic experience. I’m trusting that I will know when I’m ready to say “yes” again.

    For now, I’m setting my boundaries and perhaps being a bit selfish. But how can I help others if I don’t take care of myself.

  7. Megan, another beautiful, helpful initiative. Thank you for bringing this idea to life!

    – How have you created healthy boundaries in your life?
    By moving from “taking it personally” to taking personal responsibility for what I want to change and see happen in my life.

    -When did you know you needed to put them in place?
    When I start avoiding people/situations to avoid the interaction with them. If – for any reason – that interaction is inevitable (colleagues, family members…), I know I need boundaries.

    -Finally, how can we teach our daughters and younger women to implement them earlier in life, and not wait until they are staring down the barrel of a big birthday?
    I have small kids, so for now it is just being aware & setting boundaries for myself.
    Doing the work for myself will make me more aware and my ears will more easily pick up on potential boundaries issues my daughter will face.
    With practice, my “boundaries muscle” will be stronger and it will help me in my role as a mother too.

  8. All my life I cared too much what others, especially my mother, felt and thought. I struggled with this for years. After huge upset, and the usual hours of crying, I had an epiphany and a firm resolution. I told Mom that I was done: done crying, done being upset, done upsetting my family. I was a grown woman and I refused to react emotionally to what she said to me, to my husband and to my grown children. I wish I could say that my mom stopped being thoughtless and mean in her comments. She did not. However, I took responsiblity for my emotional reaction, and when she was hurtful on the phone I would say a pleasant goodbye and hang up. In person, I gave a mild response to her comments, often changing the subject. Sometimes I would leave the room. In other words I became an adult.

    I was over fifty years old when this happened–it’s never too late to become mature and even happy in spite of an uncomfortable situation.

  9. I just turned 45 and this past year has been a trying one with too many responsibilities…most of which were expected but not really my own and I have finally burned out from it all. My mom gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given. She said “you are the most important person in your life and you can’t take care of anyone or anything until you take care of yourself” . And she is so right. How can we expect to help others if we are too tired to keep our own lives afloat. I try to keep her words in the back of my mind each day. #youfirst

  10. To define boundaries, it is important to realize that no other adult has the right to impose their expectations or desires on you. You have the right to expect to be treated with respect and consideration. No one has the right to dominate your time or your energy with endless talking or complaining. No one has the right to try to guilt you into any action that you do not feel lead to do on your own. No one has the right to impose their beliefs, religion or politics on you.

    If you accept money or financial support from someone, it will be nearly impossible to maintain any boundary, so be self sufficient.

    This realization that you are self sufficient financially and emotionally, will give you the strongest foundation for maintaining boundaries. Your life is your own, your decisions and the consequences of your decisions, are yours. Be a person of integrity. Always be truthful. Keep your word. Do your best at work. These values will give your life a framework that will enable you to draw and keep healthy boundaries.

    1. This is so beautiful Rebecca, thank you! Your words are so true, especially about being financially self-sufficient. Many people assume women “don’t have to work” if their husband is successful – which is twisted in so many ways. I’m always stunned when I’m on the receiving end of that assumption because aside from it being presumptions and sexist, the person never takes into account my choice and sincere belief that self-sufficiency is a crucial component to equality and as you so perfectly articulated it: boundaries.

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