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 “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” –Brene Brown.

We’ve all heard people talking about boundaries.   They help to protect us, to clarify responsibilities, to preserve our physical and emotional energy, to stay focused on our self-care, to live in line with our values and standards, and to identify our personal limits.

When you ‘draw a line’ you are setting a boundary, as you are when you tell people that this is your desk or chair etc (we’ve all done it) and when you put up a partition between you and a colleague you’re setting a physical boundary. Mental and emotional boundaries can be a bit subtler.

It took me a long time to figure out how to set healthy boundaries.  Here are three simple steps that I found useful in learning how to do this for myself:

1. Identify Your Limits

The first step in setting boundaries is to clarify your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual limits. Start paying attention and noticing what is acceptable to you and what is not and notice what makes you feel good and what makes you feel uncomfortable and stressed.

What you notice are your own personal limits and it’s important to remember they will be different to others limits and that’s okay.

Because we are all different we need to negotiate our boundaries.  A recent example for me was a work situation that arose.  One of my team is a work at home mom and with kiddies out of school for the summer, she suggested we do our calls later in the evening.  As I am a morning person and usually ready for bed by 9pm, I immediately knew I had hit a limit by how uncomfortable I felt so I honoured the discomfort and we negotiated a different time that worked for both of us.

2. Recognise the Feelings

There are three main feelings that help you identify if you need to set or revisit boundaries. These are discomfort, resentment and guilt. If something or someone is leaving you feeling uncomfortable, resentful, or guilty, then pay attention to that. especially if it’s a repeated pattern.

A lot of people feel resentment when others impose their views, values and expectations on them or when they feel undervalued, unappreciated or taken for granted. It’s often followed by feelings of guilt for feeling resentful in the first place. After all, you want to be a good leader, employee, parent, friend and so on, so you continue to extend yourself beyond your own limits.

When you feel the discomfort rising, you can rate it on a scale of 1 – 10 (high) and if you score it between 6 to 10 then you may want to consider setting or re-setting a boundary to support your wellbeing.

3. Give Yourself Permission

In my experience, the most common thing that stops people from setting boundaries is the fear of how the other person will respond if you set and follow through with boundaries.

When this fear arises, despite knowing that whatever is going on is not good for you and that accepting and tolerating it will leave you feeling spread too thin, exhausted or maybe even feeling taken advantage of, you still may tell yourself that you should be able to deal with whatever is going on and you may even question if you have the right to set boundaries.

If this comes up for you, reaffirm to yourself that you have the right to take care of yourself and to set healthy boundaries that support your wellbeing.  You are the only person that can give yourself this permission. You are worthy and deserving of being well so go ahead, set those boundaries and preserve them as best you can.

Onwards Courageous Hearts!


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