Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries have been a popular topic of conversation lately.  So many people have mentioned being overwhelmed and not having their own needs met.  When I ask what boundaries they need, most struggle with an answer.  They recognize the importance of boundaries, yet in a world where almost everything can be accessed with the click of a button it seems like we have trouble not responding when that click points in our direction.

I love how Jen Sincero describes boundaries in her book Badass Habits.  She explains that “having healthy boundaries means owning your actions, emotions, and needs as well as not owning the actions, emotions, and needs of others.”  Think about how many times you’ve heard people say “I need ____, but someone is always asking for more from me” or “I can’t ____ because then so-and-so will feel ____.”  How many times have you said something similar?

I do understand that there are times when boundaries seem impossible, like when you have young children or are caring for someone else who is completely dependent on you.  And I also recognize that in some professions, the expectation is for employees to be on call 24-7 (not that I agree with this practice).  I also believe that if we take some time to think about it there are ways we can begin to create healthy boundaries.  Here are a few questions to get you started:

When do you need space?  Some of us need space to think before making decisions.  Others need space when emotions are running high.  Being in tune with when you need space puts you in a better place to advocate for that need when those moments arise.

How do you use your time to restore your own energy?  Reflecting on this question will reveal not only what things you do that restore you, but also how often you do those things and what is getting in the way if you’re not.  Then you can decide what boundaries will better serve you–blocking off time on your calendar for that workout, getting into bed 15-minutes earlier to read a good book, or turning off your cell phone at dinner and leaving it off for the rest of the night.

Who are the people that drain you?  The reality is that there are people who (no matter how much you may love them) suck the life out of you!  Recognizing that as a reality, rather than chastising yourself for being rude or rationalizing why they are the way they are, gives you the chance to set boundaries for your interactions.  And yes, you may have to articulate those boundaries which can be tricky.  (I feel another blog post coming on…)

What are your own desires that don’t always serve you?  Does this sound counterintuitive to leading a whole, fulfilled life?  Well, the reality is that sometimes we are our own worst enemies.  Many of my recent conversations about boundaries also revolved around taking our strengths and talents too far.  For those of you familiar with CliftonStrengths, my Learner theme offers a prime example.  I love learning so much that I have a stack of unread books, typically read about 5 books at a time, and may not finish a single one!  Setting the boundary that I cannot buy a new book until I’ve finished at least two keeps me from getting overwhelmed by all my reading choices and makes me feel more satisfied because I am getting more out of the books that I finish.

While the word “boundaries” may conjure up the idea of limits, healthy boundaries do just the opposite.  They allow us to make sure our basic needs are met so that we can show up more fully in life.  What boundaries do you need to show up as your full self?

Photo by Ray Bilcliff on

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