Recently, I found myself feeling tired, rather used up, burned out and I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get everything done. My husband, bless his soul, said “You know, no one could do everything that you want to do in a day.” He was right, but how did I get to that place? It took a lot of deep soul searching and a step back from my life to see that in the last few years I had gotten cheesy, Swiss cheesy as a matter of fact, when it came to my boundaries.
You see about three years ago, I had the chance to spend a lot of time with my mom who was recovering from an accident and I did so. It was the right thing to do and thank goodness my business can be done remotely by phone or video call, but there was a price to pay. You see, I ended up feeling mighty guilty for all the time away from my family- my kids, my husband, and the dogs. So, when I returned I over-extended myself personally and just let go of my boundaries as I tried to do everything!
I said yes to too much, like special meals that the kids had missed, time in the middle of the day to dash out with my hubby, not asking help with the jobs around the house, and giving rides here and there in the middle of the day at the last minute, to name a few.
In my desire to reconnect and make everyone around me happy, I neglected myself, and my private and professional time and space. Basically, my boundaries were full of holes, like Swiss Cheese.
There are 6 types of boundaries that I believe are necessary for healthy living, and there are healthy and unhealthy ways to create and maintain your boundaries. There isn’t room to talk about them all here, so let’s dive into the two that were giving me the most trouble, Emotional Boundaries and Physical Boundaries.
Emotional Boundaries- distinguish separating your emotions and responsibility for them from someone else’s. For example, no one can make you happy, and you can’t provide happiness for someone else’s life.
Physical Boundaries- pertain to your personal space, privacy, and body. For example, do you give a handshake or a hug to whom and when?
I felt that I had disappointed my family and that I needed to make them feel better, make them happy. This had two negative effects. Personally, I didn’t give myself time to heal from the tremendous physical and emotional toll of care-taking. When you are under emotional stress, you need to take your own emotional well-being seriously and handle yourself with great care, and not be afraid to ask for patience, time, help, or privacy to get your emotional health in order. Second, in taking on the feelings of those around me, I deprived my family of stepping up to plate and allowing them to care for me.
By overstepping my role in their happiness, I also didn’t allow my family to “feel their own feels” or handle their own emotions in their own way. When we try to do other people’s emotional work for them, that really isn’t fair to them, or to us. My kids especially needed time to adjust to my re-entry along with the sadness and, yes, resentment for the time I was away. I believe that no feeling is bad, but how we express those feelings can be quite harmful.
Upon my return, I also left my Physical Boundaries open to way too much traffic. My office has lots of windows, and the sad faces pressed against the glass, got to me. I was taking more breaks during the day when the miserable mugs were at my office door accompanied by a hand waiving an ice cream coupon. I was bending over backward to take forgotten items to school, meetings, and music practice. My schedule and peace of mind at work went to “H-E- double hockey sticks”, causing me more feelings of stress and making me a grumpy bear of a business-owning mamma.
I had to be honest with myself, spending time with my amazing kids and my handsome husband was fun and felt good, but I really couldn’t create a four-course meal with everyone’s favorite dishes each and every night after supporting my clients, speaking at events, and managing my business. My husband was right. (He reads my newsletter and will probably have this printed and laminated.) So, how did I regain my footing and get back to balance?
Here are the first two steps that I took to get my boundaries in order:
Define- First, I had to define what was important to me. A closed office door, means I am working, no faces in the windows or interruptions unless there is an extreme emergency. Instead of multiple interruptions, I would deliver one item per semester to a child as a freebie, other items would be delivered but only if convenient and at a cost. I plugged up the holes in my boundaries, without building a wall.
Express- I left nothing up to chance and communicated what the expectations were around my need to have my own feelings, thoughts, space, and time and that it was important for the family to respect that without “fixing”, “forcing opinions on me”, or “invading my space”. Verbally communicating that I just need to feel the way I feel, and do what I do, was crucial for me. This also allowed my family to navigate their own feelings, be responsible for their own boundaries and happiness.
In all, I ended up having better boundaries, being happier, and not feeling exhausted or cornered like a bear when my boundaries were overrun. Through this work on boundaries, I am learning to be firm, but flexible with myself and others. For example, my husband just distracted me with a note on my office window that says, “I Luv U”. Oh, what the heck, it is Valentine’s Day! I am going to let him slide this time, ?
Now, there is a lot more to boundaries, especially for people owning their own businesses. That is why I am creating a new class, Boundaries for Better Business and Better Lives. Stay tuned for that or book a free call to hear more about the upcoming class and special pricing.
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