The power of personal boundaries

 The other day at work I commented on a colleagues tolerance, after they had spoken to a pushy telemarketer quite patiently on the phone.  I said, “Oh man, you’re so much more tolerant than me.” to which my workmate replied, “That’s because I’m older than you.”

Initially I thought, of course.  It makes sense that you become a bit more patient as you get older.

But a couple of days later I started thinking about the conversation again.  What I realised was that, if anything, I’ve become LESS tolerant and patient over the years!  Now, I’m not saying that I’m extremely rude and have no patience with anyone at all, of course I do.  Patience and tolerance are great qualities that can get you a long way in certain situations.

But there was a time in my life when I was a bit of a people pleaser.  I tended to let anyone and everyone walk all over me, in the name of being a “patient” and “tolerant” person, values which I assumed people should have.  Unfortunately, that tolerance actually went so far as to let people take advantage of me in friendships and relationships.  People knew they could do or say anything, because I was always full of forgiveness and willing to give people a second chance.  I was always known as a “nice” girl.

My lack of personal boundaries and inability to say no ultimately led to me living a life that other people thought that I should be living, and not a life that I really wanted to be living.  Naturally, this made me quite depressed for a number of years.

One of the most important lessons I learned in my journey to recovery, was that it is really important to know where you’re boundaries are, and when you need to say “no”.  Where your personal boundaries lie will be different for everyone, and I’m not advocating that we should all hang up on telemarketers when they call!  But if, like me, it feels like a frustrating invasion of personal space, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a very firm “no thank you” and hanging up the phone.  I think of it as practice for setting boundaries in all areas of my life.

These days, I have a good awareness of what it feels like when someone is taking advantage of my time and energy, and that’s usually when it’s time to draw my line in the sand.  Friends and people in general now find that if they are generous with me, I’m generous with them.  If they are demanding, invasive or rude, I’m very quick to give a firm “no” and walk away.  Being able to do so keeps me happy, healthy and strong.

What tips do you have for setting your own personal boundaries?

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to give a firm “no” and walk away?

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