In the physical world, boundaries are walls or barriers that keep things in or out of a select area. When it comes to self-care, boundaries are a bit more nuanced than that.
Healthy boundaries are not walls to keep people and relationships out, rather they are agreements you make with yourself and others about what you will and won’t do. Healthy boundaries don’t force you to choose between yourself and an important relationship. And healthy boundaries don’t require you to push aside the needs of others.
Healthy boundaries do ask us to be more self-aware. To practice self-care, self-respect, and self-compassion while still building and maintaining relationships with others.
In this age where we hear a lot about ‘self-care,’ understanding how we can simultaneously meet our own needs while still caring for the needs of others can feel like a juggling act at times.
But because boundaries are not walls, they are agreements, we have the full freedom to negotiate and renegotiate our boundaries at any given time. We can decide for ourselves where our ‘tipping points’ are. Our tipping points may sometimes be circumstances when the balance is more tilted in favour of tending to our own needs rather than prioritizing the needs of another person. Sometimes, the tipping point may be different, and we may want to prioritize the needs of a particular relationship.
Though negotiating boundaries for self-care is never easy, there are few principles that can help.
1. Question limiting beliefs
We have between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day. And research shows that 80% of these thoughts are negative.
With each negative story we tell ourselves, we are essentially saying ‘no’ to ourselves and limiting our ability to get things done. And this ensures we end up disappointed in ourselves and within our most important relationships.
Self-care involves questioning limiting beliefs. Phrases such as,”I can’t because…”, or “I should…”, or “I want to, but…” are all examples of phrases to look out for that may be limiting your options needlessly.
Your inner critic, that negative voice in your head who narrates your story, is often trying to keep you safe from harm but often ends up targeting the wrong thing. In trying to keep you safe from uncomfortable situations and feelings, it tends to place the shame and blame onto you. To learn more about how to manage your inner critic, check out this blog article.
The inner critic also ensures that we end up focusing on the negative voice narrating in our head on not the positive things in our life, which leads us to the next point…
2. Articulate your values and your priorities
Values are the underlying ‘why’ behind what you prioritize and what you do.
Values are generally action words that are framed in the positive. Words like abundance, accomplishment, collaboration, consistency, helping, gratitude, and wellness are all examples of values. Your values get you organized because they set your direction. Once your direction is clear you can prioritize important goals because you have a roadmap to follow.
Sometimes inner conflict and self-doubt is created when we subscribe to certain values but then don’t live them out in our daily actions. Or we have deeply held values but we aren’t able to articulate them in specific words.
Much of the work I do as a life coach is helping women be able to identify and articulate what values are important to them and why. This knowledge establishes meaning and builds confidence in decision-making that is integral to personal growth. Check out this article for a helpful exercise to help you identify your values and stick to your goals.
3. Understand how you process obligations
We all have expectations of ourselves don’t we? Inner standards or obligations we have to act on dreams and move forward on goals.
Prioritizing self-care generally stems from an inner obligation or expectation that the self-care will somehow pay off for us. However, when we face difficulties in setting boundaries for ourselves, failed expectations are all-too-often a result.
Gretchen Rubin, in her book The Four Tendencies, suggests that the reason we don’t enforce internal boundaries isn’t because we are ‘bad’ or ‘weak’ people, it’s most often because we tend to process expectations and our inner obligations differently.
Rubin describes the Obliger Tendency, often referred to as ‘people-pleasers,’ as one tendency that generally places the needs and expectations of others ahead of oneself.
One strategy to prioritize self-care with this tendency may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, but it’s important to seek outside accountability from a person who won’t take advantage of your people-pleasing ways. Having a trusted accountability person/buddy can help prioritize self-care and maintain the agreements you make with yourself.
By questioning limiting beliefs, articulating your values, and understanding how you process obligations, you can set healthier boundaries for self-care to assist you on your personal growth journey.
Connect with me and let me know how these strategies work for you!