Trouble setting boundaries?

Dr. Brene Brown says: “Boundaries are frickin’ important!”

unnamedI’ve had conversations with a number of women seeking to make changes in their lives over the past few months. A big challenge I’m hearing from a lot of them is that they are juggling too much and don’t have time to focus on what’s really important to them. But they aren’t sure what to do about it.

 “What would happen if you said no to a few things and created some clear boundaries?” I ask.

And then I hear a litany of reasons why this probably wouldn’t work for them. (I get it – I’ve said them before, too!)

“I have to respond to the client immediately no matter what the hour.”

My boss expects me to be on call for last minute projects, even though the deadlines are ridiculous.”

“I can never turn my phone off, even when I’m socializing. I could miss something important.”

The truth is, most of us aren’t comfortable setting boundaries.

As human beings, we’re wired for connection. We want people to like us. We care what they think about us and fear disappointing them. That’s what makes boundaries so hard.

But constantly saying yes when we really want to say no can lead to feelings of resentment, anger and exhaustion.

I love the insights of Brene Brown  – research professor, storyteller, author and speaker – on this topic.

When it comes to setting boundaries, her mantra is: “Choose discomfort over resentment.”

It helps me to think of it as saying no to what doesn’t serve me so I can say yes to something that really matters to me instead.

Here’s a situation that came up for me. I was asked to serve on a committee of an organization I belong to. I really like the committee chairperson who made the request and was tempted to say yes (my default response). But deep down I knew that between my business, some courses I’m taking and family commitments, I’d be stretching myself too thin by taking on this new role.

I took a deep breath and said, “Thanks for thinking of me. I know your committee does great work and it would be fun to work with you. But my volunteer plate is full this year and I’m not taking on any more commitments right now.”

Simple and straightforward, but an important step for me. And guess what? Nothing terrible happened! She found someone else to take on the position, the committee is running just fine without me and we’re still friends.

And even though boundaries can still be tough, my courage muscles are getting stronger with practice.

For more great stuff from Brene Brown on setting boundaries, take a listen here:

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