Welcome, everyone, to the Positively Living Podcast. I’m your host, Lisa, and this summer I have been focusing on solo episodes to cover topics that have been brought up on the podcast, but needed to be covered more in depth. Last week’s episode was about our struggles with prioritizing. This week we’re focusing on boundaries, which ties in well because they are inherently about prioritizing YOU. Your values, your beliefs, your needs…they matter…you matter. And boundaries are the way to show that.

I think issues with boundaries happen a lot with self-care, according to my clients and biz friends I chat with as feedback I’ve gotten in the Positively Living community. We’ve had some excellent episodes that touch upon topics relating to self-care and boundaries, like episode 105 with Justine Sones, and we’ve touched upon them in mental health related conversations like episode 53 Am I Codependent with Mallory Jackson and a bonus episode with Alesai Galati on how your mental health is more important than your productivity.

While we’ve discussed boundaries in many different scenarios, we haven’t given this topic the spotlight. Today I do that so we can get clear on what boundaries really are, why they’re necessary, and the most important type you need to work on first. 

What are boundaries?

If you research different types of boundaries, you’ll find a ton of different descriptions depending upon the source. In an effort to keep things as simple as possible, let’s approach them in a binary breakdown of external and internal.

External – this is what we think of most – it’s what separates you from others. These are the rules for interacting with the world and people around you and they are rules both you and the world make up and agree upon. You must assess as you go learning what your limits are (which can change boundaries) and how breaking boundaries impacts you.

Within the external are physical and mental, similar to when we talk about clutter. Physical boundaries could be limits of your body or your possessions. Mental may be your choices, opinions, and emotions. Even though these are internal processes, they relate to external boundaries because you are using them as limits for others to honor, which segues perfectly into todays’ topic:

Internal – Those are often easy to forget yet the ones we need to focus on most and first. They govern the relationship you have with yourself. They’re  a sign of self-care and self-love in that, just like the relationships you have with others, how you treat yourself reinforces what you believe about yourself and needs to reflect what you expect and deserve. 

Why do Boundaries matter? 

As one of my favorite people and two-time podcast guest Mallory Jackson said, boundaries are the limits of love. So if they help you show the world how you want to be loved, that alone makes them important. And if they show you how you love yourself, they are critical.

I am a fan of the Prentis Hemphill quote: “Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” ― It makes me think of how so often in life we find a sweet spot, we might call it the best of both worlds…in this case, the worlds are love and self-love.

What are the Benefits?

Among many others, boundaries offer 

Freedom, connection, and influence. It feels counterintuitive to think that limits give you freedom, but limits are filters that give you the space and specificity you need to choose what’s best for you. Clarity is freeing because you no longer feel the exhaustion of decision fatigue, or the effort of figuring out where to draw a line. It’s a set system that attracts and connects you to others who either feel the same or maybe simply respect us (and very quickly shows us the opposite too so it becomes another kind of filter to figure out who belongs and who doesn’t). And when we successfully practice setting and protecting our boundaries, we model for others what’s possible.

Have you ever seen someone say no to a seemingly great opportunity or limit their availability all the while you’re running around constantly saying yes and keeping an open door policy? Did it make you wonder just how they do that? The good news is knowing something is possible is the first step to figuring out how you can make it work for you too. The even better news is, that’s exactly what I coach, so I’m here to help.

Another critical benefit to boundaries is that they reinforce our beliefs not only in what they protect, but our worthiness in having those things protected.

This is why the MOST IMPORTANT BOUNDARY to work on for people pleasers is the internal.

What we determine on the INSIDE is what is going to drive us to set and protect boundaries on the OUTSIDE.

How do you choose and set those internal boundaries? It all starts with self-awareness. This is why I talk nonstop about it, because when you understand YOU, you can create the boundaries and the goals that serve your greatest good. 

Some ways to this:

  1.  Listen to the episodes here on the podcast and access Positively Productive Free Resources Library at https://positivelyproductive.com/resources/ I recommend starting with the Core Values and Joy List Worksheets.
  2. Learn your limits. Where and when do you feel like you are no longer you? That it is all too much? Explore your values, preferences, and needs and consider how that will play out in your actions as well as interactions.
  3. Think about times when you felt conflicted – those “I know what I want to do but I can’t get myself to do it” moments and reflect on WHY. 

As you reflect on your internal boundaries, consider these key places where internal boundary work can trip you up:

Authenticity: Do you pretend to be someone you aren’t for the sake of others? We do it to fit in and get love and be happy, but we get the opposite. Being someone you’re not is misery inducing.

Mallory Schlabach and I talk about authenticity in life and business in episode 31 and I love what she says about how being authentic is like being a magnet–we both attract AND repel. The repel part can be difficult because we want to be liked, but let’s reframe it by saying we filter out who and what doesn’t work and we are better able to find our people and we find what’s meant for us when we stay true to who we are. 

Example: For years I worked in the corporate world where there were specific expectations of how to dress and how to act. By nature, I not only smile, I goof around a lot. But it has been perceived as me not caring enough and not being focused enough on my work. It couldn’t be further from the truth. One of my biggest core values is integrity and it’s paramount that I show up and do my best each and every time. I care greatly. But because I did so joyously, it was perceived negatively. I slowly shifted to hide the humor and it made me miserable. Now I joke freely as a coach and my clients destress when I make them laugh. Each and every one of them will tell you how much I care, how their success is my success, and how I take our work seriously. It’s just LIFE I don’t take so seriously. 

Identity: Who do you claim to be? Who do you want to be? When we are working to change and grow and be our best selves, it is easy to get caught up in who we think we are and lock into that, which keeps us from progressing.  There are also patterns and beliefs that we have lived with throughout our lives that don’t serve us, land we may not even realize they are there. We have to work to identify and release them.

Example: I have had many clients who identify with what they DO, more than who they are and the value in that. Sometimes it’s the type of work, sometimes it’s being active and busy. They say “Who am I if I am not doing this?”  Another example would be clients who say they can’t do something because they are not a [fill in the blank] – numbers person, tech person, sales person, people person

It can sound like excuses and it is, really because you are limiting yourself. Does that sound familiar? If you lock in your identity as a person who says YES or allows others to do what they want with your time and energy, you essentially trap yourself into a life of broken boundaries (or really a boundary free zone).

Ask instead: Who do I have to be to achieve the goals I want? To protect the boundaries that are important to me?  What would that person allow?

Responsibility: Taking responsibility for our actions is a challenge that begins when we are little. We don’t want to get into trouble so we play the “blame game”. This stays with us because it’s much easier to look outward to find excuses than it is to turn inward and find root causes. Even in relationships we seek to use our partner as a scapegoat for what goes wrong. It’s a tough pill to swallow to consider that we show others how we want to be treated. When you shift your perspective to this approach, you can see the gaps in your boundaries and the work that needs to be done.

Example: I’ve been working with my family for years to understand what I need and what my limits are and then express it to them, especially as a mom who loves serving them but experiences the weight of mental load. I have been working hard on my wording with them and learning to shift it. For example, I no longer say “Please unpack the dishwasher for me.” I even correct myself directly to them and say “Well, not for me…for all of us. We’re a team in this house and this needs to be done.”

Speaking of unpacking, there is so much more to unpack when you’re a people pleaser, but I think we need to finish here so you can start exploring and understanding who you are and what you’re limits are first. Then we can talk about the right ways to protect them.

I highly recommend listening to the codependent episode with Mallory and checking out the book Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. I also encourage you to message me on Instagram @positively_lisa and let me know if this resonated, what you’re working on, and how I can support you. And book a free connection + assessment call at https://positivelyproductive.com/call 

Thank you for spending time with me today and digging into a somewhat complex topic. It is my goal to keep things as simple as possible and give you doable, actionable steps. Remember whatever comes up for you today to stay curious and stay encouraged.