THE 411 ON SETTING BOUNDARIES
HELEN DERBYSHIRE - 4 MINUTE READ
People pleasing is one of the most soul sucking activities known to man, ok maybe that’s being dramatic but hear me out. You know when you always say YES to everything and then the time comes when you have to follow through on what you said and you just FILL with dread? Sound familiar? I thought so. This act of pleasing people is so draining, but fear not, I’m going to help you navigate through it.
There are so many variations to people pleasing, it can look like the above example where you say yes to every single invite, even if you really wanted to say no, it can look like answering every call or responding to messages quickly, it can look like taking on more work than you have capacity for in fear of disappointing someone at work or a client, it can look like being a version of you that is not authentic to please other people (That’s the one I used to struggle with!) Infact, I struggled with a variation of all of the above, so just know I’m speaking from experience here.
You know what the hardest part is? When you are an empathetic person, you genuinely want to do things for others, help them, you empathise with others so much that you think about the other person's wants and needs before your own but empathy without boundaries is the worst combination. Because what happens is you keep pouring into their cup, and unfortunately people take take take and it’s only when you realise how empty your cup is that you realise you did way too much for someone/something else but now you’ve almost set the standard within that dynamic so you have to navigate through clawing back from that and implementing boundaries at this new higher standard.
You might be thinking yes that’s me, I know it is, help me how to STOP! Ok so here’s the 411 on setting boundaries and protecting your peace.
Never apologise for setting a boundary - Saying “Sorry I can’t” isn’t setting a boundary it’s apologising for not being ABLE to fulfil someone else's want or need (boundaries are about choice not ability)
Using assertive but not rude vocabulary - sometimes, when somebody asks / expects you to do something it might evoke frustration / anger / resentment from you which can verbally come out in a rude or passive aggressive tone, which isn’t setting the boundary either.
You have to prime people so they know how to approach you - unfortunately, we can’t just assume or expect that people won’t ask us to do something or invite us somewhere (whatever the situation looks like). You have to prep them, you might even have to start by testing out smaller, easier to manage boundaries.
Setting a boundary is not wrong / rude / unfair - it is a form of self respect, and each time you keep people pleasing.
It is absolutely FINE to do things for people, that’s not what this is, boundaries aren’t there for you to never do something for someone ever again. It’s about protecting your peace / time and space from the things you don’t want to do / the things that cause you stress or upset / the things that take time away from the things you’d love to be doing etc.
Boundaries build confidence - each time you set and uphold a new boundary you’ll develop confidence in your life that you know how to trust yourself and communicate effectively
Once you’re effectively boundary setting - you’ll have so much more free time and mental capacity for the things that matter.
Over time you’ll do it as a second nature
And over more time, people will just stop expecting those things from you, they will know that they can’t contact you at ridiculous times of the day, or ask you to reach an unrealistic deadline, or keep inviting you to the club because they know that's not your thing, they won’t blow up your phone with message after message demanding your attention because they know they don’t get that same energy back.
And to round this blog off I’m going to give you a few examples of how to set boundaries in a variety of situations;
Situation: Somebody keeps inviting you to events/nights out/places that you do not enjoy, maybe that’s the club, maybe that’s an all day drinking event and you want to stop engaging in this kind of behaviour/activities.
Response: “Thank you for inviting me, on this occasion I won’t be attending / coming along, I just feel like that’s not my thing right now and I’m really enjoying catching up with friends over coffee - let me know when you are free for a coffee” (this way you are proposing an alternative that resonates with you) 2.
Situation: Someone from work keeps emailing/calling/texting you out of hours and maybe even asks / follows up why you haven’t responded
Response: (Respond within your working hours) “Hi __ thank you for your email, I did receive it however I respond to all work emails between the hours of _ and _ so I will ensure to prioritise and respond in a timely manner to any urgent emails within those hours”.
Situation: Somebody is asking you quite personal questions
Response: “That’s an unusual question, I’m interested in why you’d like to know this?”
Situation: Your friend is BLOWING up your phone, constantly messaging, all day every day, brings a lot of drama or issues and expects you to respond (you usually do in that quick back to back manner) but it’s really quite draining and you also don’t have the time for it, or maybe they call you a lot / keep you on the phone for a long time.
Response: (I would wait a few hours and reply when YOU have the time - put your phone on do-not-disturb to avoid receiving the notifications) and then reply with this “Hi __ I’ve been really busy so I am seeing all of your messages now, I will respond when I have more time later / this week” (this way, you are priming the friend that they’re not going to be getting instant responses from you).
If you’re ready to stop that relationship/friendship especially if you feel it’s one-sided and you’re always stepping in supporting them with their problems you can also say “Hi __ I understand you’re dealing with a lot right now and really need that support from a friend but at this point in my life with everything I have going on I’m not going to be available to always respond to emails and calls in a way that I feel you need right now”.
Situation: A client asks you to take on another project/task that you do not have capacity for, taking it on means you’d have to work more, spend less time with your partner/kids/friends/yourself doing the things you love or enjoy or even the things that help you destress from your work life. (There are instances when you have to sometimes take on more work so just know when it’s that season of your life)
Response: Thank you for considering me for this project, however I am at maximum capacity right now and wouldn’t be able to meet the intended deadline
If perhaps you can take it on in the future you can add (however I will have more capacity in X time)
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