One of the best aspects of having people you trust in your life, is the ability to ask for advice. I have happily taken on more projects but that has also created a boundary problem. I say ‘yes’ too often OR I don’t erect fences around the ‘yes’ or my own time. This leaves me feeling frustrated and what was once fun becomes a burden. I reached out to Emily Aborn for some advice. And, as always, she had my back. Let her have your back too.
The specific date was unremarkable. All days in January in New Hampshire are virtually the same. Long, cold, dark, some combination of drizzle and snow falling from the sky.
It was around 6:00pm on a Saturday night. I was leaving late because while managing the customers in the retail store I owned, I was working on my side hustle and helping a client post something to his Facebook page. He called me at 4:30pm to discuss this project and shame on me, I answered the phone. The two sentence post and phone call took an entire hour.
When I finally hung up, I turned off my computer, locked up the store, set the alarm, and left to head home for date night with my husband.
On my way home, just as I was nearing the left-hand turn that connects the main road to my little dirt road, my phone rang. It was Facebook Guy. And you guessed it... I answered again.
I passed the left-hand turn and kept driving to give myself more time as my phone would lose its signal if I didn’t keep driving straight. In my ear, he was telling me about the changes he wanted to make on the post and going on about his vision and marketing plan for the upcoming year. Blah. Blah. Blah. Ever seen the teacher talking to Charlie Brown and his classmates?
I felt sick to my stomach knowing that I both brought this boundary-trampling experience on myself and not knowing what to do about it. I had actually begun despising Facebook Guy and had intentionally ignored his phone calls. Until he started calling two or three times in a row, at which point I would give in and answer. Even on Saturday night. I had to do something.
The Facebook Guy debacle was the first time I experienced setting boundaries for myself in a conscious way. I wrote him an email the next day explaining that I did not work on weekends, and I would not answer my phone after 5pm (or before 9am) any other day of the week. He wrote back “I do not like your guidelines and I do not think they are going to work with my business.”
I successfully left Facebook Guy back in 2019. I let 2020 roll on by without creating and enforcing boundaries. Now it’s 2021, and I get to try again..
Despite my contracts spelling out that I needed 48 hours, I kept right on going; answering the phone for anyone and everyone -even when everything in my body was shouting, “Don’t answer!” I would accommodate all the last minute things that people sent me to do, and I would give them my attention NOW when I felt it was demanded of me.
As a result, I felt stretched like a rubber band, I was bobbing around like a whack-a-mole with the clients hitting me on the head. I was depleted, exhausted, burnt out.
You're nodding your head, aren’t you?
As we head into 2021, I finally caved and realized the problem was ME.
I made an active decision to create and stick to my boundaries. Admittedly, I am no boundary-setting-guru… but I am setting the intention that this is my year to become one. I want to encourage and show YOU this is possible.
Boundaries aren’t about setting rigid guidelines for no reason, they are about preserving YOUR time, energy, and valuing yourself. Think of them as the imaginary line between you and other people. In the virtual world we live in, they are more crucial than ever to preserve our space, feelings, and establish clarity in responsibilities.
Why do we struggle with boundaries? Often, it’s because we are people-pleasers, we want others to feel great about themselves and feel like we are on top of things. We want to do the very best job that we can and achieve our way to shiny stars and pats on the head.
The thing about boundaries is… when you give and give and give, people take and take and take. And there is very little left in the well for yourself.
It’s more than OK not to be a people pleaser. You will never please everyone. In fact, you likely won’t even please 50% of people. Let’s begin by letting our white knuckle grip on that loosen up a bit.
Once you’ve decided and gotten cozy with not being a people-pleasing junkie, sit down and map out what gives you energy and what drains you. This might be people, activities, places, circumstances, etc. It can be applied to tasks, organizations, clients, you name it. Make a line down a piece of paper if you want to visualize it and write it out!
The energy zappers are where you need to focus and put inside a better boundaries box - meaning you create boundaries around your time and interactions with them. The energy givers are allowed to be a little more free-flow BUT often will still have a boundary.
Example: A particular person is very draining to you and every time they call you, they complain about their husband, their kids, and whatever else is the gripe of the day. After you get off the phone with them, you feel like a bag of bricks just hit you.
Set a boundary! Either you don’t answer the phone for this person EVER, or you do so at specific times that YOU establish. Maybe you need to be the one to call them when your energy is high and you’re feeling indestructible.
You can create boundaries around your routines, your news intake, your interaction with others, your social media intake and output. Whatever you need to create a life where your cup is FILLED, rather than constantly being emptied.
Only you know what those things are for yourself!
Actual boundary-setting tips and techniques:
Set the structure up for yourself, write it down so you can SEE it in front of you and hold yourself to being self-disciplined. Stick to your guns.
While a work in progress, I am living proof that it CAN be done! Create your own vision, set it into place and then be super strict about adhering to it. It might feel unnatural and uncomfortable at first. Like you’re doing something wrong. That is normal, and you’re not wrong. You’re doing something SO right!
As an example of how I have applied boundaries in my own life:
I hope this helps you on your boundary-creation journey and empowers you to find your voice and communicate more openly as to what your boundaries are.
~ Be well, Emily
And P.S. You don’t need to say YES to everything 😉
After chatting with Emily and reading this, I did the following: I listed every project I have in play and numbered them. I have twelve. I put stars next to those projects that are very important to who I am and what I must achieve. I had three. That left me nine to consider. I put those in order from most important. Then I did some more analysis - should I eliminate, find a way to streamline, reduce my commitment but not let it go completely. I’ve got a long way to go but I have already put up some fences.
Thank you, Emily, for once again rescuing me from myself.
Where are you allowing your boundaries to be violated? Are you okay with that? Do you need to fix a boundary fence? Well, gather your tools and get to fixin'.
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