Sometimes we “bite off more than we can chew,” so to speak. It’s important to set boundaries in our personal and professional life so that we have more time for what really matters.
Setting boundaries is a healthy and important part of living a life that matters
I’ve had several conversations lately with women struggling with overwhelm, often tied to dealing with trying to figure out how to navigate relationships with the people they care for while still managing the other things that matter to them–careers, community involvement, home care, and more. Whether at home or at work, often our ability to be as productive as we want to be is affected by the things that other people expect of us–whether those expectations are reasonable or not.
Setting boundaries is a critical skill for everyone, but it can be especially important for women due to societal expectations and traditional gender roles that often place additional demands on their time and energy. Establishing clear boundaries can help women maintain a sense of balance and well-being in their personal and professional lives. I wanted to talk today about some key aspects to consider when it comes to women and setting boundaries.
What are boundaries?
I looked to some experts for an explanation of what we mean when we talk about setting boundaris.
One article said, “A boundary is an imaginary line that separates me from you. It separates your physical space, your feelings, needs, and responsibilities from others. Your boundaries also tell other people how they can treat you – what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Without boundaries, people may take advantage of you because you haven’t set limits about how you expect to be treated.”
A post on the Berkley Wellbeing website talked about “psychological boundaries—or the standard by which we want people to treat us—are harder to identify. Psychological boundaries are also less fixed and change depending on circumstances such as the situation, one’s values, and cognitive, physical, or emotional capacity.”
One therapist puts it this way: “A boundary is a container around your time, mental and emotional energy, relationships, physical body, and material and energetic resources.”
An article on PsychCentral.com goes into more detail about the kinds of boundaries we might need to think about and tells us that: “Personal boundaries are simply the lines we draw for ourselves in terms of our level of comfort around others.” This article goes on to say:
These boundaries may have to do with:
- physical contact (not feeling comfortable hugging a person you’ve just met)
- verbal interactions (not wanting a friend or family member to speak down to you)
- our own personal space (choosing to not have others in your home when you aren’t there)
These boundaries typically fall into a few specific categories:
- emotional (protecting our own emotional well-being)
- physical (protecting our physical space)
- sexual (protecting our needs and safety sexually)
- workplace (protecting our ability to do our work without interference or drama)
- material (protecting our personal belongings)
- time (protecting the use, and misuse, of our time)
Boundaries can also exist in a variety of situations, including:
- at work
- at home
- when visiting family
- when out with friends”
Examples — at work
One article talks about boundaries in the work context: “Boundaries can show up in a lot of ways at work:
- Refusing to allow others to speak to you in a rude or condescending manner
- Protecting your space. When your door is closed, it means it’s really closed. It doesn’t mean someone can knock and walk in anyway
- Setting your priorities for the day based on how you best work
- Instituting a zero-tolerance policy on office gossip
- Refusing to be “the fixer,” i.e., the one everyone goes to when something needs to be done and done right”
Shonna Waters, PhD, in a post on the BetterUp.com blog, suggests some boundaries in relationships:
“The bottom line is that our boundary setting should make us feel respected in our relationships.
She goes on in the post to offer “five examples of healthy relationship boundaries:
- Expecting others to communicate during disagreements with maturity
- Letting go of codependency and having your own identity
- Asking for personal space and quiet when you’re working
- Voicing your concerns rather than holding onto resentment
- Leaving the situation when someone is communicating disrespectfully with you”
Why do we have a hard time setting boundaries?
One therapist identifies several reasons we struggle with setting boundaries, including:
“Guilt. We’re used to taking the blame for other people’s feelings and feel guilty when we don’t meet the “nice girl” norm. So many of us were raised in cultures that expect women to be polite, please others, look a certain way, and play by the rules. Oh, yes, and never complain (that’s not “attractive”).”
The fear of not belonging — “We fear that others won’t like us or our choices, often out of a deeper fear of abandonment or the loss of a relationship.”
“FOMO “Sure, I’ll do that thing I really don’t have time, energy or desire to do.” Even if it is something that you really want to do, that still doesn’t mean you have room for it. Setting boundaries does not always mean saying no to others, but can often mean saying no to ourselves.”
Important concepts for setting boundaries:
Self-awareness: Understanding personal values, priorities, and limitations can help women establish boundaries that align with their needs and goals. Reflecting on what is important and non-negotiable can serve as a foundation for setting boundaries. I love the way one writer said it:
“Be present with what is, identify with awareness, and check in with your body. Anger is often a sign that your boundaries are getting crossed. We physically and emotionally feel when things are not right – let that guide you. There’s most likely a boundary that needs to be set.”
Communication: Clearly communicating boundaries is essential to ensure that others understand and respect them. Women should be assertive when expressing their needs and preferences, whether it’s with family, friends, or colleagues.
Setting and communicating boundaries isn’t about telling other people what they must do. Other people get to make their own choices. So it’s about letting them know, in a calm and non-threatening way, where you’ve drawn the line in your own life. It’s about clearly and calmly saying, “If you do x, I’ll do y.”
- If you shout or swear at me, I will hang up the phone or leave the room.
- If you are late to our [meeting/outing/whatever], I’ll wait 10 minutes and then leave without you.
I found some great advice on this point in one article: “If you’re dealing with someone who is perpetually late, communicate this to them ahead of time — let them know you will be leaving after a certain amount of time has passed. Still, try not to sound accusatory. Consider acknowledging that you two have different personalities. You’re not trying to change them, but you need to set time boundaries for yourself because you can’t afford or don’t want to wait any longer.”
The article on PsychCentral.com said this: “Setting boundaries is simply about communicating your needs for healthy interaction to someone else. It isn’t always easy. Not everyone may like or understand your boundaries or your reasons for setting them. But if you don’t set those boundaries, you certainly can’t expect them to be followed.”
Work-life balance: Establishing boundaries between work and personal life can prevent one area from taking over the other. Setting designated work hours, creating a dedicated workspace, and disconnecting from work during personal time can help create a clear separation between professional and personal responsibilities.
Saying “no”: Women might sometimes feel pressured to take on additional responsibilities or meet others’ expectations, even at the expense of their well-being. Learning to say “no” and prioritizing self-care can help maintain balance and prevent burnout. We’ve talked about this in the past–see TPW8 (Saying No Gracefully) and TPW373 (Saying No (and Yes) in “No”vember.
Emotional boundaries: Women should also set emotional boundaries to protect their mental health. This may involve limiting exposure to toxic relationships, avoiding emotional labor for others, and setting aside time for self-reflection and self-care. This can be the hardest of all for those of us who need to set boundaries with people we care about. One writer recommends working on our thinking as we set boundaries:
“Reframe your fear of hurting others. Setting boundaries can sometimes feel like hurt to those affected by your choices, so it is important to reframe the situation into an act of love, for yourself and them. Let them know why what you are doing is the best for both of you and if they don’t get it, then that’s their problem, not yours.
Honor your grief about setting boundaries. Sometimes a boundary means a loss or, feels like one. Honor the feelings of grief that may come up, as these are honest truths that deserve to be recognized. Take care of yourself in these moments so that you can fully honor your choices.”
Time management: Efficient time management can help women allocate time for various aspects of their lives, including work, family, and self-care. Prioritizing tasks, delegating responsibilities, and setting realistic goals can help women maintain control over their schedules and uphold their boundaries.
Support network: Building a support system of understanding friends, family, and colleagues can make it easier for women to maintain their boundaries. Connecting with other women who face similar challenges can provide encouragement, advice, and solidarity.
Some final thoughts
By setting and maintaining boundaries, women can create a healthier balance between their personal and professional lives, allowing them to fulfill their roles and responsibilities while also prioritizing their own well-being.
What do you think?
Is there a person or situation in your life where you struggle with setting appropriate boundaries? What has worked for you? Post your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me.
Resources and Links
Brooke Castillo “The Life School Podcast” episodes
- 5 Struggles Women Have With Boundaries and How to Reclaim Them Like a Badass — ERIN NES THERAPY
- How To Set Healthy Boundaries — A Compassionate Guide for Women | by Julia Horvath | Better Humans
- The Successful Woman’s Guide to Setting Boundaries – Without Being a Bitch – Women Igniting Change
- 10 Non-Negotiable Boundaries All Strong Women Should Have For Their Lives | Thought Catalog
- How To Set Healthy Boundaries In A Relationship, Per Experts
- Four Essential Ways Wise Women Set Healthier Boundaries | Lisa McCrohan
- What Are Boundaries and Why Do I Need Them? – Live Well with Sharon Martin
- Personal Boundaries: Types and How to Set Them | Psych Central
- Boundaries: Definition, Examples & How To Set Them – The Berkeley Well-Being Institute
- Healthy Boundaries in Relationships: A Guide for Building and Keeping
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I Was Just Thinking . . .
I would love to have your help!
Royse City, Texas
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Dear Laura, I’m Elisabeth from France. Thank you for all those uplifting, strong and fierce episodes. To capture informations, I’ve got a sheet of papier. Each day, I put all meetings in my digital agenda (often shared with my husband), if needed on the wall family calendar. If it’s actions to be done, on my to do list or my paper agenda (if there is a deadline).
Thank you for the last épisode about boundaries. Love and grace to you and to all the listeners
Merci, Elisabeth! I appreciate your kind thoughts and thank you for sharing your capture tools. I look forward to including your ideas in the upcoming episode!