“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”Brene Brown
It has always been hard for me to set boundaries on my time. I put myself last, I sign up for more than I can do, stress myself with deadlines and go full out on my goals.
Being a work-a-holic always felt comfortable. It made me feel useful and engaged. Being busy allowed me to not think too much about anything else. Strive, strive, strive.
My mum tells the story that I have always been this way. The first thing I did when I could stand and hold the playpen side, was to pick up a broom in my other hand and sweep all day. She said that if I wasn’t sweeping, I was doing some other thing that was working towards something. Since I hadn’t started to talk yet, she had no idea what I was thinking. But my playpen was swept clean 😂 and I was being useful.
Core wiring maybe?
In school I was the same way, working hard to achieve my goals. My aspiration firmly set on going to college. In college, the repeated pattern was there. Looking back, I was a bit boring, even to the point of joining a professional fraternity! Yup, breaking stereotypes by joining a fraternity (although it was co-ed) and one that was grounded in business programs. Your probably thinking ….Snore 😴…. 😂😂
When I started my career, I was first in, last out. I never said I had other plans after work, if there was something that needed to be done, put me in coach. It isn’t that I didn’t have a personal life, I just didn’t have clear boundaries for myself, so I got lost in the hustle and bustle. I thought that to get ahead it was all about hard work. Doing an exceptional job and doing more than others. And that was part of it, early in my career, and it served me well in being recognized and given more opportunities. It also left me skewed to the work, not building relationships outside of the work.
The head fake….
I think many of us get caught up in trying to define ourselves through work and when we do come up for air, we find it hard to define ourselves outside of that context. We also may have seen others, seem to work less, but spend their time on relationships. Reflecting back, you have to have a balance of both, and you have to make the time to ensure you are building relationships.
If you are striving to make it to the top of a company, or even build your own business, hard work alone won’t get you to where you want to be. If your waiting to be discovered with your hard work, you really will be waiting a long time. And this creates the challenges you will face, of frustration, in over committing and in not having boundaries that will work for you.
The more you move up in your career, the more of you people want to know to determine if they can trust you. That trust is not just about getting results, but also in knowing where you stand.
Building towards life after work….
When people retire, if they haven’t cultivated other aspects of determining their self-worth, they become lost in the next phase of life, longing for the day’s of work.
Women, I think, feel more conflicted with boundary setting. They are set up to believe they must do it all. Building a career, raising the family, putting their personal goals on hold, planning for eons for that girl trip so it won’t put anyone out, etc. and when the day comes that the kids are launched, retirement is close, they are at a loss for what’s next.
If I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self to be more intentional and set clear boundaries. Set a course for the future and invest in your whole life.
Some tips I learned along the way, on setting boundaries:
– Step back and look at your whole life. Are you fulfilled in what you are doing and are you achieving your goals, both personally and professionally?
– Spend time building clarity in your decision making on what you will and will not compromise? For example, Friday is date night with my husband. No interruptions allowed unless the world is ending.
– Voice your boundaries to your family and your boss. For example: If you have personal plans after work, and someone is needed to stay, and it is not a critical task, politely say you already have plans you cannot change. If it is extremely critical and you feel you need to stay for the success of what ever it is, ensure you speak about what you are giving up and that you are making an exception this time. But don’t make it a pattern if you don’t want it to be one.
– Be clear even if you are raising a family and feel you have to give everything up for them. Your spouse, is your partner, so ensure he knows about your career goals and what you will need in terms of support.
– Be clear if you’re married, or on your way to “I DO”, in your aspirations and set boundaries from the get go. Don’t fall into a routine you’re not happy with, just because you think it is expected. Lasting relationships are give and take.
– Make time to have coffee, lunch or dinner with colleagues. This is important in building your relationships and investing in your career. The hard skills do not, in themselves, make you successful. It is the soft skills every time.
It isn’t easy becoming comfortable in expressing your boundaries. However, practice makes it easier. Letting others know provides clarity. For example at work, I will say at the beginning of a meeting “I have a hard stop at x” so I won’t be late for the next thing – personally or professionally.
Spend time on exploring what matters, knowing what truly sets a fire within you and what success looks like to you. Then set to the task to prioritize your boundaries. It does take time, and you need to be flexible. At first it will feel uncomfortable and you may not get a full embrace of support, if you are breaking the “everyone else but me” pattern. Stand strong and build comfort in knowing your own mind. Those that support you, are those that are wanting you to find you happiness.
You owe yourself the best life you can have. One of the ways is making sure your clear with yourself and others about your boundaries. We can’t be all things to everyone, however, we can be whole and fulfilled.
Only you can define what success looks like. I have a wide range of hero’s, from stay at home awesome moms and dads (the hardest career) to full out Entrepreneur’s, to anywhere in between. The one thing they have in common is that they have clear boundaries on how they use their time and how they engage in the world.
Women should not feel bad in being clear in their boundaries. We can learn from men on this. I know I sure have. They set the boundary clearly upfront and they have no issue saying NO. I have learned how to say NO, when it erodes a boundary, unless it is clearly a high priority and I choose to ease it. We all need to be flexible, and ultimate flexibility is created by having clear boundaries for yourself, so you are making clear decisions and choices.
Set clear boundaries to navigate your world and Shine Brightly!