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Yield sign with personal boundaries written across the bottom

Recently I wrote about the benefits of setting boundaries. There are all kinds of different boundaries. I believe the most important ones to set are your personal boundaries.

But just how do you go about setting your personal boundaries?

It’s important to be very clear with yourself about your values and priorities. Begin by making a list of all the different aspects of your life: career, family, religion, volunteering, health, recreation and so on.

Decide just how much time, energy, and financial resources you want to devote to each aspect of your life. This will be your intention for boundary setting overall. Know that this is not rigid as priorities can shift during life events. For example, when I am preparing for a conference or presentation, work becomes a larger priority. If a family member is sick or has special needs, then that becomes a larger priority.  It is important to monitor these temporary shifts. I find that self-care often gets slighted during these times and while that is OK for a short time, it cannot become the norm.

Be Clear with Yourself First

When you are clear with yourself about your personal boundaries, it’s easier to be clear when dealing with other people. Be aware that setting boundaries can be hard and uncomfortable at first. Start small and focus on one area at a time.

It’s in our nature to want to help people, especially our family. And if you have always been a giver then it is just expected that you will continue to give…and give…and give. This can lead to exhaustion and resentment.  And that’s not fair to the askers because they are only doing what they have always done and have come to expect. If you have always dropped everything to meet the needs of your children, elderly parents, or even friends, they will continue to expect it.

What Happens When Your Boundaries are Crossed

You become aware that you are allowing your personal boundaries to be crossed when you begin to feel resentful. That’s the time to make a change before more damage is done.

When you realize that it is time to set or reset these boundaries, be clear and straightforward. It’s so easy to say yes to or ignore a situation where we find ourselves doing something other than what is in our plans.

At first, it may not seem like a big deal to help someone out when they have a need. A neighbor or friend may ask you for help with a project because you have better skills or more energy than they have. So, you help. Then they ask again. Now, you still want to help but are beginning to become resentful because it is taking time away from your own projects.

Be Positive When Stating Boundaries

When you start working on setting personal boundaries, state what they are in positive terms. Say what you need instead of what you don’t want.  Instead of, “I’m getting tired of you assuming that I will drop everything to help you.” say, “I have projects that I need to work on and finish. If you need help with something, you may ask, if I am able and it is a good time for me, I’ll be glad to help.” Or “I really know that you need me to take you to your doctor visits. It will be easier for me if you set your appointments on specific days so that I can plan around them.”

Accept that there might be a kickback when you start changing out what they have always expected from you.

In Conclusion:

Take some time now and list the different aspects of your life. Make notes about why they have value. Look at how you are spending your time, energy, and money now. What area feels out of balance? Work on setting some personal boundaries in that one area.

When you feel ready, look at other aspects of your life and see how they are affected. We all have limited time, energy, and money so when we take from one area to give to another there will be a shift in your life.

If you are ready to do some personal boundary setting work or would like to tame your calendar, join Diane Quintana and me in our Clear Space For You clutter support group. The group will offer ideas, support, and gentle accountability for working on developing plans or projects.

Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, award-winning author, as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients.



One Comment

  • Setting boundaries can be challenging. It took me way into my adulthood to learn how to do it. I’ve gotten much better, but those challenging situations always arise when boundaries can fall by the wayside. However, based on my experiences, it’s always better for everyone involved to be clear about your boundaries. Because if you always let the lines blur, you will, as you said, end up resentful or completely burned out.

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