Knowing your own boundaries can even affect your health.
In order for you to feel socially and emotionally integrated in your life, you may need to consider and re-define your boundaries. Just draw the "line." This involves:
- L: Listen to the symptoms of burnout.
- I: Identify ways you can take responsibility for change as it's needed.
- N: No is one of the only full sentence words in the English language.
- E: Empathy and positive energy comes from clear communication
Say what you need and stick to it. Be yourself and show up. Your relationships will naturally develop stronger bonds if you do because you will naturally align in values and integrity. Think about your professional boundaries for work and the personal boundaries you hold in your intimate life. How honest and willing are you to speak up when your boundaries are being over-stepped?
It may be an experiment in frustration for you if you try to convince anyone to value you more than you value yourself, or for you to try to convince someone else to share a same vision that you have. We just need to accept each other for who we are. In those power struggle situations or when you run into a misfit of life values, you or the other person may decide to capitulate, just in order to get along in the short run. But in the long run, this is a path to relationship burnout or to toxic relations with co-workers in your workplace. If you don’t express your boundaries, you will most certainly start to feel unhappy, unfulfilled, frustrated and quite possibly even used. Over time, if you don't express your needs, your intimate relationship with your partner and/or your co-workers on the job will develop more resistance, conflict and stress. And with more stress, this will lead to fewer empathic and positive connections with significant others in your life. Simply put, if you don't express or define your boundaries, you are inviting social and emotional chaos into your life.
Think about it within the framework of the following metaphor of the opening and closing of a door. There is a start and ending to a day. So also there is the start and finish to an idea. Well actually, ideas continue to expand and develop the more we talk and integrate meaning from them. What you don't define will bite you in the butt one day soon.
There are always going to be two experiences of every moment shared between two people. Our bodies are naturally boundaried. You can't walk through someone physically (unless you are a ghost). And the same is true about healthy emotional transiting. We can't walk over someone else's emotional needs and feelings in a healthy relationship without respecting both their boundaries and our own boundaries. There is a boundary of knowledge and experience between all of us.
As Socrates is quoted to have said, "Wisdom is seeking knowing." Emotional wisdom tells us that a wise person is one who understands the line. The more you care for yourself in drawing your line, in expressing your needs and feelings, and in strategizing your day accordingly, the more you are available and have the capacity to be caring for others. But without defined boundaries, your doors, days, emotions and ideas will surely bump into each other. Without boundaries, your sense of satisfaction in your life and your capacity to love well will go way down.
The hormone oxytocin has been the center of a lot of research lately. Oxytocin is the attachment hormone, most commonly identified through attachment research. The curious thing is that the more you have the ability to express your boundaries and to draw the line, the more you will generally feel in trusting partnership. When you feel calm and secure in your connections, your brain produces more oxytocin, which in turn results in better brain function and a more loving, fulfilled life. You will never feel lost again, no matter who you are with.
Do you feel your career and personal relationships are generally quite fulfilling? Or are they less inspired than they could be? If you are experiencing the latter, you may notice that you have less resonance with others, less effectiveness in conversations and less passion generally about your career and others. When you feel this way, you may notice yourself isolating from others as the door to anxiety and depression starts to open for you.
Take a moment and consider what kind of boundaries you tend to have. When you have an expectation of someone else and they let you down:
- Do You Tell Them, "No Problem" And Carry On With Your Day Even Though You Feel Disappointed? (This is an example of diffuse boundaries — anything goes and your self-esteem is probably quite low.) That song Don't Worry, Be Happy is your mantra. Except, have you noticed that you aren't really very happy after all? The trouble with diffuse boundaries is that over time, you will become less and less tolerant, as your colleagues or friends become less and less aware of your needs. The outcome of this kind of lack of healthy boundaries may lead to a friendship cut-off, which will be loss to both you and your friend. At work, the results are more stress for you and less team support for your projects.
- Do You Tell Them You Are "Done With The Relationship?" If this is the way you react, your boundaries are likely impenetrable, and you would fall into a category of rigid’. This style of boundaries is bound to make your life dramatic, but unhappy. For sure, you will have lots of ups and downs. But over time, you may notice that others have real difficulty connecting with you because they worry about them messing up and failing to meet your expectations of them.
- Do You Tell Them Your Feelings And Share What It Is Like For You In That Moment? If so, you have the ability to hear what went wrong for them and the core strength to develop the relationship. You are able to draw the line. With this kind of reaction, you can come to an understanding of how to problem solve for the future so that both you and your friend have a more positive experience. If this is you, then your boundaries tend to be clearly defined and you have a flexible style of managing them. You probably enjoy many lifetime friendships, because you are able to work through misunderstandings with your significant others fairly easily. You also do well in leadership roles, because you have high empathy and probably practice healthy life habits — exercise, a healthy diet, good sleep, and you maybe meditate and do yoga too.
The more your life gets busy and brings more demands on you, the more you may want to consider your boundaries. Of course in an ideal world, we would all have flexible boundary styles. In that world, we could easily express our needs and values and be empathic of others. The trouble is, that in today's real world, we all feel so much pressure in our lives.
Is this perfectionism? Is life one big performance stage? These are some of the questions that from time to time compel me to reassess my own boundaries. With the collective denial of our needs in our culture and lack of commitment by us to express our needs, our experience of this world is becoming more anxious and reactive. We then unconsciously may start to eat more, to shop more, drink alcohol more, and generally, to run away from the experience of feeling emotionally lost.
Are you aware of the emerging research that suggests that the life expectancies for our children is declining, and that a driver of this trend is that their lives are more stressful than they should be? Rates of obesity among our children continue to escalate and the trend lines suggest life expectancy for our children will go down.
Do you set aside time in your day for health habits? Our bodies are made up of a collection of cells that divide and regenerate every year. With exercise and health habits, our cells will divide and regenerate towards health. But if you don't take proper care of yourself, your cells will develop in unhealthy ways, creating various possible cancers, and physical and emotional disease. I love recommending the book "Younger Next Year" to help clients understand why it is important to set up time for exercise, healthy meals, and meditation every day.
This is where your boundaries of time become important. When you flip your office light switch on for the day, have you taken time to exercise or meditate yet? When you flip your office light off at the end of the day, have you got a transition ritual you are heading into? (See my last blog on the value of Transition Practices.)
We are "pair bonding species." We are meant to work together for a common good. To be ready and able to work together in resonant positivity, we need to take care of our selves in a way that pays attention to defined strategic, physical, emotional and relational boundaries. Caring for your biological health will trigger your emotional health. When you are caring for yourself in practicing healthy boundaries, you will experience greater connection with others. In greater connection to others, the better your brain state is.
The more that you are in sync with others, the more oxytocin (attachment hormone) there will be in your system. The more oxytocin, the more ease in your day. The more caring and compassion you experience, the better your life and the more those around you will thrive. Our amygdala receptors pick up loving connection and our calm, our capacity for innovation and inspiration goes up.