One of the large pieces of personal growth I’m currently working through is learning how to set appropriate, healthy boundaries in my life. As I’ve been processing all of the crazy the past 5-6 weeks brought along with them, I’m making a lot of great changes that are having a tremendous, positive impact on my well-being.
While these things are aimed at managing my stress in the best way possible (yoga, meditation, etc), there is still a need to address any underlying issues that might have contributed to my epic meltdown over Memorial Day weekend.
This is where boundaries come into play.
A Boundary Inventory
Over the course of some very intensive talk therapy sessions, I’ve become aware of my tendency to internalize the stress, fear, anger, and other negative emotions of others–at the cost of my own stress levels. Rather than holding firm with my boundaries and voicing my concern if someone is “dumping” on me, blaming me for something that I had no contribution to, or being a bit too nosy about what’s going on in my life, I tended to clam up and just sort of sit there or share too much, talk too much, and make myself much too vulnerable.
Eventually, the lack of response on my part meant that all of that negativity was being internalized. As a truly happy, positive person, this created a lot of internal confusion and stress for me. I became someone who would seek to work out the issues and problems of others at the expense of what I needed to be working on myself. It’s a pattern that has most likely grown out of my (quite rocky) upbringing, and it’s incredibly refreshing and liberating to finally be stopping it cold in its tracks.
The good thing is that I have made progress in setting boundaries in certain parts of my life, such as at work and with my finances. I have learned the power of ‘No,’ as I mentioned in my post about how I learned to say no, slow down, and stop buying. I’ve also learned to celebrate my worth as a freelancing professional who’s currently chasing down my dream to be my own boss in a successful way. None of these would have been possible if I didn’t have the confidence and strong sense of self that has helped me navigate all of the various challenges in my life with grace and dignity.
Setting Personal Boundaries
As I take stock of what I’ve already accomplished and where I’d like to end up on this journey, I now understand that the last step in having a full repertoire of boundaries at my disposal is to establish (and maintain) personal boundaries. While this isn’t necessarily “easy” work to do, the feeling of freedom I’m already experiencing is quite motivating.
There are a few steps I’m taking to ensure these new boundaries will be realistically identified, maintained, upheld, and augmented as necessary (these are like a budget; not a “set it and forget it” entity–they require maintenance and attention!):
Completing Personal Inventories
This is the hardest part of the process–to finally deal with all of the things that I’ve been through in my life in a complete manner. Fully processing every aspect of the various experiences; including the who, what, where, when, and why (or perhaps coming to terms with the idea that I may never understand why).
With the inventories come the emotions. It’s a painful ride of emotion that I’m facing head-on without the crutch of any maladaptive coping mechanisms. The great thing here is with each memory or experience I’ve already processed, I’m becoming stronger and more ready to face the next set. From accepting my unhealthy childhood (perhaps fodder for another post in the future–not sure I want to share this here) to processing what’s gone on in the past year, I’m making great strides nearly every day.
The lists seem to be never-ending but they are invaluable. While at first I felt a bit silly and definitely self-conscious about these assignments, I’ve begun to look forward to writing more as time goes on.
The first lists for the boundaries work included lists of what types of things I’m not comfortable with when people around me are doing them (criticizing, judging others, etc.), types of things I’d like people to stop doing to me (being rude, ignoring me, etc), and types of things that I will no longer allow people to say to me without standing up for myself (ie. an ex BF from my past who harassed me for weeks when he found out I had begun dating someone else months later).
Other lists have included what my expectations of others are, an assessment of how available I make myself for the needs of others (and what it costs me), and a list of how I feel while around certain people in my life. With each new list, I’m identifying the patterns I will change, the people I need to cut ties with, and what I need to become the whole, healthy version of myself.
As with any new change I’m putting into place, the importance of taking action is paramount. I already know that there might be objections to this new, stronger Jen that some people won’t be prepared for, but I’m ready to cross that bridge because I’m resolved to being consistent, staying patient, remaining calm, being responsible for my own emotional reactions instead of those of other people, and identifying when compromise is an effective choice without “giving in” or “going against” my own beliefs or what I need to stay balanced.
Boundaries and Finances
I mentioned above that I’m solid when it comes to setting boundaries in my financial life. Gone are the days of lending money to people, spending more than I earn, and trying to maintain a facade of success with material objects due to societal influences.
If you find yourself struggling to maintain boundaries in your own financial life, you might want to consider completing your own inventory or lists. As you work through the various stressors that are keeping you from reaching your financial dreams, be sure to accompany each with a tangible, realistic course of action that will help you change your situation.
Once you have your lists and know what your plan is, don’t waste even a second putting it into place. Today is the day that you can take the first step to achieving your goals. While you might find great support from others, remember that you and you alone are the only one that can do the work to ensure these changes are permanent and having last effect on how you manage your money. Believe in yourself and your ability to succeed.
Should you find that your finances are in check, consider other areas of your life where your boundaries might need a refresher. From work to friendship to fitness, there are always ways to improve the person you are today in order to become the best version of yourself tomorrow.
After reviewing all of the progress I’ve made over the years with my ability to manage money well, I’m excited to realize that the potential for my latest phase of change is literally bursting at this point. I’m not worried about making all of these healthy changes because I’ve done it before, and I know just how sweet the future will be as these things work themselves out.
The best part? Positive, happy rewards are already coming my way–the change is already happening!
How do you maintain your own boundaries in life?