NBH020: Respect Your Own Boundaries

Respect your own boundaries. There's a lot of talk about boundaries lately, even among lawyers. Lawyers are setting boundaries with clients. Lawyers are setting boundaries with their staff. Maybe you're even setting boundaries with other people in your personal life, or your friends. Setting boundaries is an acceptable practice now. And communicating boundaries, like communicating any other rule or policy or practice, is also okay. We set the boundaries either verbally, in writing, or simply in our heads with an intention.

And then we move through life with a greater sense of empowerment. We have established our values and who we are. We talk about our boundaries with our friends and colleagues. It's really great. We have figured out where we end and other people start, where our issues are, and other people's issues. We have a lot of clarity and awareness about what is our problem and what's not our problem. Creating that space with this boundary, with this rule, with this little space in between ourselves and others, allows us to really know who we are and to function at a higher level.

Everything is going well when we have boundaries, isn't it? However, what happens is sometimes the boundary gets violated. It is horrifying. How can this be? We're the ones who set these boundaries; they are rules and they shouldn't be broken! So we're horrified because since we set the boundary, it must be the other person's fault for the violation. The liability must lie elsewhere. That's where we get tripped up. And then all of that mistrust and dysfunction starts to happen in our boundary setting. Benefits begin to fall away.

Does the liability land elsewhere? Perhaps boundaries are not for others but for ourselves. I want you to think about boundaries as something for you. They are little mission statements. We create boundaries all of the time. We have preferences for what we'll tolerate, for what we won't tolerate, what we want, what we desire, what we do not want. And in practice, we push our boundaries and take risks. And that is very healthy. It's a healthy way to live. It's a healthy way to work and lead. It works well until we cross our own boundary.

When we disrespect our boundary, we are giving up our responsibility to maintain it. I'm not trying to create more rigidity, or more rules, on our behavior to keep us in line or anything like that. To the contrary, boundaries are actually meant to move and change. Think of it as cell walls of an amoeba. Not cell walls, but the boundary.

And think about how we move and change, and the situation changes, and who's in front of us changes. The boundary actually shifts. For some people there may be more space, and for some people there may be less space, in between who you are and who they are. But that moment when you feel out of integrity and the shape is not there, it's leaking. Things are moving all around. We lose our dignity; we lose our integrity of the shape of us, of who we are, of our values, of our mission statement. And that's the golden moment when you can practice self-respect. That is the moment when you can take an opportunity to notice that it is you, it is me, who is not respecting the boundary. We are not respecting our own boundary, no matter what anyone does.

We are the ones who get to decide what the boundary is. And so we can actually turn this around. Instead of blaming everybody else for crossing our boundaries, for taking from us, we can actually notice when we are not keeping integrity with our boundary. We're not respecting our own boundary. And this will take practice. Either this time you might notice it, or the next time, or maybe the hundredth time where you violate your boundary in a certain way or let others violate your boundary. Whatever it takes.

Each time we choose to take responsibility for our own boundaries, our time becomes more valuable. We value ourselves, and we value our time, and our space, and our integrity. And when we make that choice and time becomes more valuable, we're likely to manage it better. It's more precious. It's an awesome thing that we can actually be in control of time. Respect your own boundaries and notice when you're not.

Thank you to the sponsor of this podcast episode and blog post: Clements Employment Law, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA specializes in counseling social entrepreneurs committed to building companies where people come first, and assisting individuals who have faced barriers in the workplace. Clements Employment Law can be found at www.clementsemploymentlaw.com. For a free copy of “The New Billable Hour” book and other resources, visit www.newbillablehour.com

Related Articles