My journey to learn more about personal and professional boundaries began a few years before the pandemic. This desire to dig deeper into the topic was [painfully] born out of a series of challenging life experiences. I found myself repeating patterns that weren’t serving me. I began to ask myself (and others) what changes I could make to stop the negative cycles I found myself in. I started to do something different.
Leaning into the discomfort of a) acknowledging areas where I was betraying myself and then b) making small daily promises to myself has helped to chart new and healthier pathways in my personal and professional life.
As someone who has dedicated myself to a life of self-employment in one capacity or another, having strong boundaries in my professional life is imperative.
Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment. ~ Brene Brown
One thing that helped me was to learn about emotional intelligence (EI) and understand how it plays a part in boundary-setting (or lack of). The EQ.i 2.0 and EQ360 assessment I received was helpful for me because boundaries can show up across many of the five aspects (and 15 subscales) of emotional and social functioning.
Here are a few ways to tell if you might be struggling with boundaries, what you have to gain from stronger boundaries, and some tips on how to chart a better path to enhancing your business and life.
How do I know if I struggle with weaker boundaries in my business?
- Feeling overwhelmed and pulled in too many opposing directions
- You say ‘Yes’ far too often when you really want to be saying ‘no’
- You take on more than you can handle
- You’re spending time on the wrong activities and are finding you’re not getting ahead in your business
- You are constantly checking your email or taking calls (even when at home with family/friends)
- You feel like you never have time for yourself and are tired or lacking energy
- You have forgotten how to have fun
- You are trying to be someone you’re not
- You are starting to resent others for their success
If any of these resonate, you could be struggling with setting some important boundaries in your business.
What do I stand to gain from making some changes?
You will avoid or minimize burnout
This one hits close to home. I experienced a massive period of burnout that left me paranoid, anxious, unemployed for six months and rebuilding my life for a number of years afterwards. Building stronger boundaries build up your stress tolerance and improve optimism and happiness.
By building stronger boundaries, you will develop your interpersonal relationships much more meaningfully. You begin to build empathy while still taking care of your own needs.
You feel confident with your decisions
For years I struggled to trust myself and my decisions. I waffled and changed my mind A LOT. While part of this is due to my personality, a big contributing factor was my lack of trust in myself and my abilities.
How do I start establishing better boundaries?
Know what you value
Set aside time to work through your personal values and what is important to you. This will help reaffirm where you want to set some boundaries so that you can focus on pursuing activities and contracts that align with what you value.
I started my journey through the practice of meditation long before I started looking closely at my boundaries. I started recognizing when I felt uncomfortable in certain situations through this daily practice (and I’ll be honest in that it took me a few years to build it up to a regular daily practice). I started asking myself, “Why?” and from there was able to understand when a boundary I didn’t even know I had was being crossed. I was able to better understand what my boundaries were. From this place, I could begin to “trust my gut.” Listen to my intuition. Follow my heart.
Set some ground rules
Developing your assertiveness can go a long way to keeping professional relationships in check. This is not to be mistaken with aggressiveness which is not what you want to aspire to.
It can mean standing up for yourself in a meeting or communicating expectations around your response times.
Be authentically YOU
Work on how you perceive yourself through developing your self-regard, self-awareness and self-actualization. Learn how to trust yourself more by getting out of your comfort zone. Mindset work is extremely powerful, and understanding that you are not the sum of your thoughts is a great place to start.
I am grateful to the many people who have mentored me, held me up when I felt weak and introduced me to valuable knowledge. Although this journey to stronger boundaries has not been easy, it has been worthwhile and has improved my life in immeasurable ways.
If you’re ready to embark on a journey to better boundaries through emotional intelligence practices, check out my EvolvedEQ self-study program.