“All her life, Claire had had a problem figuring out where other people ended and she began. All her life, she’d taken on the world’s hurt; she held herself responsible. But why?”
Elin Hilderbrand, A Summer Affair
The flippant answer might be that Claire had not learnt to build boundaries into her life. It is now recognised that every time you say ‘yes’ when you would like to say ‘no’, you are reducing your resilience, draining your energy and forfeiting your option to do what’s really important to you.
Boundaries can be thought of as imaginary protection fields we erect around and within ourselves that could, for example, place limits on the time we are willing to spend on the different areas of our lives, determine how close we are prepared to allow other people to get to us, or even differentiate our temporary self from our permanent identity during difficult times when we are experiencing uncertainty, grief, pain or illness.
Setting good boundaries means that we don’t waste our finite resources on what’s not good for us; they allow us to be in charge, choosing what we allow inside our lives, and therefore helping us to become more resilient.
Two important things to remember when setting boundaries is that firstly; they allow us to control how we treat ourselves and not how we are treated by others, although, they do help us respond to how others treat us. Secondly, that boundaries should be fluid and flexible when required, allowing us to respond to the unknown whilst excluding harmful behaviour or influences. This ensures they are different to barriers which allow no movement, choice or negotiation and therefore create resistance rather than the resilience most of us strive for.
Creating personal boundaries won’t happen overnight, it is a process which will require patience and practice. However, by defining and implementing personal boundaries your self-confidence will grow and more love, support and respect may find its way into your life as a result.
Being clear about your boundaries at work doesn’t mean that you are not a team player. In fact, it’s the opposite. Your work relationships are likely to improve because people know you are communicating respectfully and honestly. Your contribution to the team is also likely to increase as you are more focussed on your key strengths and no longer being pulled in several directions at once by too frequently saying yes.
If you would like to re-assess or set your working life boundaries, you may like to read our article “Top Tips for Setting Boundaries at Work“.
This is one of a series of articles on aspects of resilience. You can access them all from this post Resilience Skills: An A-Z of definitions of the terms used.
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