Brene Brown describes boundaries as the clarity of knowing what is and isn’t okay. Sounds simple enough, right? And yet, for many of us the act of pondering, grappling with, establishing, and embracing, our personal boundaries is something we rarely — if ever — do.
Not establishing and embracing our boundaries leads to resentment. Unfortunately, most of the time, we are unable to articulate what sits behind that resentment.
Here’s a simple example to illustrate what I’m talking about. Let’s say my boss schedules a recurring 2-hour meeting beginning at noon. And, while noon is when I try and take a lunch break, I do not have it blocked on my calendar. So, I begrudgingly accept the meeting request. Am I frustrated with my boss for not knowing that she’s interrupting my meal break? Probably. Am I frustrated with myself for accepting the invitation? Probably. But, unless I clarify what the boundary is that’s been crossed, I am unlikely to effectively address it.
What do I mean by this? Well, the boundary may be that it is important to my health to eat lunch at a similar time each day… or, the boundary may be that taking 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to enjoy my meal in the middle of the day allows me to recharge and refocus for the remainder of the day. Consequently, the actions to be taken to address these boundary infractions would be different.
In the first scenario, I might ask my boss if we could make the meeting a working lunch where I would be free to bring in my lunch and enjoy my meal as we worked. This solution, of course, would not address the issue of uninterrupted time to recharge and refocus. For that scenario, I might ask my boss if there is any flexibility to start the meeting a bit later and block the time on my calendar to preserve this time for myself.
Where might you start this process? When you feel yourself becoming resentful, pause. Take some time to explore what’s behind the resentment and why it’s important to you. In doing so, you’ll begin to gain clarity on your boundary and how you might begin to establish and embrace this boundary.