If you’re an avid user of social media or you consume any sort of personal development-based content, chances are you’re familiar with the concept of boundaries. If you are not, let me sum it up for you. Boundaries are what we create and communicate to the world about how we expect to be treated. Boundaries are a necessary component of any healthy and fulfilling relationship--with your family, partner, clients, friends, and even yourself. When we don’t identify and honor our own boundaries, by holding others accountable to respecting them, then we don’t honor ourselves.
Many, if not most of us, struggle with boundaries because we have been modeled relationships that lack them. And for women, we’ve even been conditioned to believe our worth is dependent on lacking boundaries, by putting others’ needs before our own.
Play that scenario out in the real world, however, and you’ll always find resentment, exhaustion, low self worth, and a lack of true identity. This is due to a lack of boundaries. When we don’t teach others how to treat us given our unique needs, we burn out and hold ourselves back from maintaining deeply satisfying relationships and experiences.
I’ve noticed the struggle comes much earlier than setting and communicating boundaries, though. It comes with simply identifying our boundaries. So how do we identify and create boundaries that will enable our unique life energy to thrive at its highest potential? We get to know ourselves better.
I’ve highlighted 3 prerequisites to setting and maintaining healthy boundaries:
Identify your values
Bear with me here as it may sound like a given, but you need to identify your core values. I can guarantee that if you do not invest your energy into identifying your specific core values, you will never fully potentiate your unique life. Most of us learn “our” values from the adults in our early years. Honesty, hard work, family, faith, blah blah blah. The importance of learning and leaning into our values has been washed out by society. We are conditioned to believe we all share the same core values, but we've missed the mark. The goal should be to teach us to look inward and create our own values from the unique light within ourselves. According to research from Brene Brown’s book Dare to Lead, when we narrow down our values to two or three core values, we find greater success in living them out in our day to day lives. Identifying your core values is the first critical step in getting to know yourself. Without taking the time to identify your deepest values, it is impossible to create or maintain boundaries that truly honor and protect your wellbeing.
2. Create your unique vision of success based on your values
Oftentimes, when we get crystal clear on our values, our visions of success and happiness begin to shift. Why? Because we are taught a young age what it means to be happy and successful. When we strip away externally imposed values and build our own, we unravel ideas of success that were built in the image of those external values. What comes next is a new and sometimes fluid vision of success, as you define it, based on your core values. This is a continuous process of reprogramming your beliefs about yourself and your path to success and happiness. A process that flies in the face of the garbage we’ve been conditioned to believe for decades. It is uncomfortable and terrifying to break away from the confines of a one-size-fits-all approach to success, and rewrite your own. It forces you to trust yourself and your values. It is no easy task, but it is indeed an empowering one to say the least. Begin to question your notion of success and rewrite it (literally write that shit down) based on your core values.
3. Apply boundaries that align with your values and honor your vision of success
Boundaries, just like values and success, are not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. You want to ensure your boundaries are set from a place of introspection. Let’s take for example one of my values of connection. I have a boundary around the types of conversations I am willing to have. Through introspection and action, I have successfully implemented and continue to hold my boundary of not engaging in compassionless conversation. Because without compassion there is no room for connection. If someone is being unkind or inconsiderate in a conversation, I will not engage with them. Period. End of story. This wasn’t easy at first, considering I’m human and we all love to get our point across. But to have an exchange with someone, without the potential for true connection, is a drain of my energy and does not align with my value connection. I would not have implemented this boundary successfully, however, without plenty of trial and error. Don’t get hung up on the ideas of permanency or accuracy. Know that you will have to test out different versions of boundaries, and that it will likely be an uncomfortable process. The more you practice creating and maintaining boundaries, the easier it becomes to align with your values. The more aligned your are to your values, the greater the chances of actualizing your unique vision of success.
When we get back to basics and devote our energy to getting to know our most authentic selves, values, and motivations, the mechanisms for self-preservation become abundantly clear. And with that clarity, creating, communicating, and maintaining boundaries becomes an easier and more enjoyable process.