Recently, a podcast listener asked, “How do I get close family members to respect my boundaries, like an early bedtime for myself?”
(Have you ever wondered that same thing? I know I have!)
Another listener asked, “How do I hold boundaries for alone time with my persistent, high-needs 6-year-old?”
(I have one of those myself—a persistent 7-year-old—so I get it!)
But in my mind, there’s a flaw with how these questions are set up.
And it’s not our listeners’ fault; the problem is how we talk about boundaries as a society.
Our Current Construct of Boundaries is Off
We talk about boundaries as if they’re something we can set up and then expect other people to honor.
It’s like building an invisible wall and standing on top of it one time—just long enough to shout, “Hey! This is my invisible wall! You can’t see it, and you’ll probably forget it’s here, but do NOT cross it!” And then we scurry back down to our side of the wall, thinking we’ve finally done it—we’ve created safety for ourselves by putting up that wall.
So… how well has that worked out for ya?
Have the people in your life been able to remember and respect your invisible wall?
Probably not! Because they’re human (and they can’t actually SEE invisible things!).
Even if they’re reminded every now and then about that dang invisible wall that they keep bumping into, they’ve got their own path they’re pursuing and their own problems on their mind.
Your invisible wall—your boundary—might not be their top priority.
That doesn’t mean the people in your life are bad people or that they don’t care about you. It just means they’re different than you.
(For this discussion, I’m talking about generally healthy relationships. If you’re in an abusive or toxic relationship, please see a professional.)
So here’s my hot take on boundaries:
Boundaries aren’t about expecting other people to honor them; they’re about creating the means for YOU to honor them.
If someone is treating you in a way that you don’t like, or if you keep finding yourself doing things that breed resentment, figure out how to remove yourself from those situations—and commit to doing it every time.
The responsibility for your boundaries isn’t on the people or things you’re protecting yourself from; it’s on YOU.
It’s not someone else’s job to honor your boundary; it’s your job to create boundaries you can honor.
That said, I’m not saying that you can’t make requests—that you can’t communicate what you need. You absolutely can!
You can make requests and explain why you’re making them, but my suggestion is that you hold those requests lightly. Don’t let them turn into expectations, because creating expectations of imperfect humans often leads us to feelings of frustration, disappointment, and resentment. (And no one wants that!)
How to Set Boundaries YOU Can Uphold
So you’re probably asking out loud at this point, “Okay so HOW? How do I set boundaries that I can honor and uphold?”
Let’s get brainstorming!
The listener I mentioned at the beginning of this post asked about how to get an early bedtime for herself, so let’s start there.
What I’d encourage her to ask herself is, “How can I create a situation or environment where I can go to bed when I want to?”
Maybe she could try using earplugs or an eye mask if her partner likes to stay up in their room later than she wants to. Maybe she could put airpods in and listen to a guided meditation, white noise, or nature sounds.
Maybe she could even change rooms or go sleep on the couch if there’s too much going on in her sleep space. (The key here is not sleeping on the couch while resenting her partner, but instead sleeping on the couch because this is how she’s choosing to meet her own need. Think of it as a form of self-care.)
My husband is a night owl, where I’m pretty much a cranky toddler starting at about 8pm, so we’ve spent the last 15 years stumbling through this exact thing. Let’s just say we’re both a LOT happier when I take ownership for my own sleep (instead of hoping that he’ll have a giant personality shift and suddenly see it my way). 😉
3 More Examples of Boundaries You Can Honor
Here are three more quick examples of how you can uphold your own boundaries:
- When your mom says something critical about your parenting, could you simply leave the room? Could you choose to believe that her actions have a thousand times more to do with HER than they do with you?
- When you’re feeling talked out and touched out and you just need FIVE minutes away from your kid, how can YOU carve out a break for yourself (rather than hoping your child will suddenly understand you)?
- When your friend starts gossiping about other friends, could you consistently steer the conversation toward something you feel better about?
Need more? 25 Active, Compassionate Example Boundaries (+ A Formula for Creating Your Own)
It’s empowering to realize that your boundaries are actually in your hands—not anyone else’s.
More from Episode 9 of “Life On Purpose with Erica Layne”
Here’s what else you can hear in the latest episode of the podcast!
- Permission to be you: A segment where I give you full permission to be who you really are. Today, permission to MESS UP.
- Try-on session: Today’s thought, which you can “try on” for size, will help you let go of your resentment for doing more than your share of the work.
- The Authenticity Calendar: My page-a-day calendar of inspiring quotes & affirmations. On sale until stock runs out!
- Do YOU struggle with resentment over the amount of work you do at home? Visit me on Instagram to discuss!
Listen to the full episode in your favorite podcast app, or in the audio player below! And be sure to hit subscribe!
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Show produced by Callie Wright