Setting Boundaries

It’s true what they say. You teach people how to treat you. You give them clear instructions with how you react to their requests and demands. By saying yes out of ob-ligation, guilt or any other thing outside of your desire to help, you set yourself up to be defined by other people’s expectations. Not your own.

Does this mean you don’t help people and become selfish? Not at all. That’s not what I’m describing here. There will be times that it’s necessary to help. There’s time you enjoy helping, where it’s not a burden. In a partnership, marriage relation-ship, child rearing, etc. there are opportunities for individuals to pitch in and do things because they have to be done. And hopefully, it builds character along the way. Everyone wins.

What I want to uncover is the instances where no one wins because someone is being taken advantage of. Even if it’s unintentional.

When I was in my twenties, my husband and I owned a little Dodge Pickup truck. And everyone knew that around their moving day. I can’t tell you how many friends, family members and acquaintances we helped move. In the midst of raising toddlers.

After Mark voiced that he wished we didn’t have the truck anymore so we didn’t get stuck moving everyone, an aha, light-bulb, come-to-Jesus moment slapped me. “We don’t have to be stuck. We don’t have to get rid of the truck. We can say no.”

There were things we wanted to do with our kids on those weekends, so we ac-tively prioritized our family time. For the people we were closer to, we let them borrow the truck, and for others, we declined helping altogether.

Another thing they say is true. If you don’t plan your life, someone else will fill it for you.

Maybe some of you have a neighbor or family member that wants to monopolize your time. You have the power to put a boundary in place. Maybe you can spare them one hour a week.

Maybe someone wants to come and stay at your house for a week. But just one day will work better for your schedule. You have the power to disclose this.

Maybe you’re an author and an aspiring writer wants you to read their book. You have the power to tell them you’ll read the first three pages or none at all. Maybe some of you have someone in your life who wants you to constantly watch their kiddos. You have the power to tell them no. After all, you have your own life to fill to the fullest.

You honestly don’t have to give a reason for saying no or for the boundary itself. You may be thinking, but I can’t say no. They won’t like me anymore, or will be disappointed.

At the risk of sounding like countless moms, if they wind up not liking you, they were never your friend to begin with. A relationship is 100%/100%. You may also be thinking, I can’t do this because it feels wrong. You’re not alone. So many people struggle with guilt that is rooted in insecurity. It’s imperative to marry value and self-worth with setting boundaries.

This week’s practice:

1. Prioritize your time. By setting your schedule, you give yourself a clear bound-ary you can uphold and be its gatekeeper.

2. When asked to help, examine if you have the time or resources, if it’s going to be a burden. Remember, we’re not talking about in the bounds of relationships where you are signed up to roll up your sleeves. Heaven forbid I hear from husbands or wives, or parents, or employers that say a family member or employee isn’t pull-ing their weight.

3. Examine what you’re willing to do and only do that.

4. Feel the freedom in the boundary when you’re not living in other’s expecta-tions. Revel in the gift you just gave to you.

Remember, everything you need to rise out of the ashes of the past lives on the inside of you.