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4 boundaries everyone needs for a healthier work-life balance

30 June, 2021

What are boundaries, and why do we need them?

Personal boundaries are to protect and respect the values and the areas of our lives that are important to us. They’re essential if we want to be physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. 

Having clear boundaries in your life is empowering. 

Accepting the need to set and implement boundaries within your life protects your self-esteem, maintains your self-respect, and enjoys healthier personal and professional relationships.

Clear and healthy boundaries are also essential to living aligned with your vision and goals. Conversely, a lack of healthy boundaries in your life (both personal and professional) will steer you away from living a meaningful, purposeful life. 

Let’s get clear on what healthy boundaries look like:

  • You will value your own opinion.
  • You don’t compromise your values for others.
  • You properly share things about yourself (do not under or over-share).
  • You know and value your wants, needs, goals & dreams, and you can share them in healthy ways. 
  • You’re able to accept when others say no to you – in a gracious manner. 

To be clear, here are some potentially unhealthy boundaries to look out for: 

  • Oversharing personal experiences, ‘too much information.’
  • Find it difficult to say’ no’ when asked to do something. 
  • Over involved in other people’s problems.
  • Unlikely to ask for help.
  • Keep others at a distance. 

Healthy boundaries allow you to:

  • Have high self-esteem and self-respect.
  • Share personal information gradually, in a mutually sharing and trusting relationship.
  • Protect physical and emotional space from intrusion.
  • Have an equal partnership where responsibility and power are shared.
  • Be assertive. Confidently and truthfully say “yes” or “no” and be okay when others say “no” to you.
  • Separate your needs, thoughts, feelings, and desires from others. Recognise that your boundaries and needs are different from others.
  • Empower yourself to make healthy choices and take responsibility for yourself.

For optimal work-life balance, there are four boundary areas to prioritise, including your time, your emotions, your intellect, and your energy:

Time boundaries:

We often feel we never have enough time to focus on what’s essential in our lives, yet time is often what we least protect through effective boundaries. 

Consider this; do you have friends who drop by unexpectedly? Do you have co-workers or employees who demand your time in unreasonable ways? Do you have tasks that you can delegate to someone else but chose not to? 

These examples show where boundaries can be put in place. In short, we have unhealthy time boundaries when someone in our life demands too much of our time. 

Create a healthy boundary: set enough time for each area of your life, such as your career, relationships, health, hobbies, and interests. (Referring to the circle of life activity is a great way to see where you need to balance your time.) 

Emotional boundaries:

Emotional boundaries refer to your feelings and implementing limits on when to share and when not to share information about yourself with others—for example, gradually sharing personal information about yourself during the growth of a relationship, rather than revealing everything to everyone. Something to be aware of is that an emotional boundary breaks when someone criticises, belittles, or invalidates another person’s feelings. 

Two ways to check in on your emotional boundaries: 

Do you sacrifice your plans, goals, or dreams to please others? If yes, what boundary can you put in place to protect your plans/goals/ dreams? 

Do you blame others for your problems? If yes, or sometimes, what boundary will help you take more responsibility for your problems? 

Intellectual boundaries:

Intellectual boundaries refer to respecting your thoughts and ideas and respecting the views and opinions of others.

Consider: do you have people in your life that dismiss or belittle your thoughts and ideas? This behaviour is a sign that you haven’t set up appropriate intellectual boundaries. 

To start with:

  1. Identify people in your life who support and encourage you and your ideas.
  2. Choose from now on to only share your thoughts and ideas with them.
  3. If you don’t have people in your life to do this with, reach out to others that are like-minded, perhaps join a community, hire a coach – start building a support network. 

Your energy:

Your energy fuels your wellbeing, and to live a vibrant life, you will need to protect this energy. 

How you recharge your energy depends on what works for you. Consider the activities that invigorate you; are you someone that needs alone time? Or someone that needs high-intensity workouts? Do you need space to be creative? Do you need space to be heard? 

When people in your life do or say things that rob you of this energy, such as invade your personal space, create upset and anger or make unreasonable demands. They’re stopping you from the things that restore your vitality, making it impossible to cultivate a healthy work-life balance.

To recognise where you need to set healthy boundaries in your life, consider answering these three questions: 

When do you find yourself feeling angry?

When do you experience resentment? 

When do you find yourself whining or complaining? 

And consider any barriers that are preventing you from setting healthy boundaries:

  • FEAR of rejection and, ultimately, abandonment.
  • FEAR of confrontation.
  • GUILT.
  • Not taught healthy boundaries.

These are areas of your life you’ve most likely not set up healthy boundaries, listen to yourself, determine what you need to do or say, and then take steps to integrate them into your life. 

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