Boomerang Boundaries – How to Set Boundaries and Not Feel Guilty
It’s the mid way point in the year and a great time to celebrate our successes so far, review our challenges and plan what we need to do moving forward. Something that can be a big barrier to many of us either in business, our workplaces or our families, is setting boundaries. This month’s newsletter is all about the who, what, where and how of setting boundaries and keeping them from boomeranging back to us!
Have you ever set ‘boomerang boundaries’? You know, the types of boundaries that you set, and then a few weeks, a few months later, you just kind of let that boundary drop. You probably did this because you started to question whether you did the right thing, whether you were in the right or wrong. You started to second guess your initial feelings and give in to guilt and other thoughts that you believe are your reason speaking to you.
I recently spoke to a group of women who are senior managers and a few of them raised the challenge of setting a boundary…..and keeping it! I realised I and many I know have the same challenge. So this video (transcript below if you’d rather read it) is about how to stop boomerang boundaries.
You may also find my blog post When do you walk away helpful in deciding when, how and why to set boundaries–and how sometimes it is not easy! Click on the title or click here to read it.
The Three Reasons Why We Let Our Guard Down
There are three things that I often apply when I set boundaries. Believe me, these have often turned out to be boomerang boundaries in the end. Just recently, in the last few months I’ve done the same thing. But I am learning! Perhaps a slow learner, but I am learning.
Looking At Patterns
The first reason we do this is we forget to remind ourselves of the pattern of behaviour that led us to set that boundary in the first place.There was a pattern that we noticed over a series of weeks, months or years, where you might have some good interactions with the person, but it always just seems like there’s a little bit of a resentment, undermining or continued taking advantage of your goodwill-and we forget about that and wonder if we are being unfair. And of course, as we drop the boundary, we re-experience why we set it in the first place.
Sometimes with workplace colleagues or a manager, we can’t walk away, but we can set boundaries that show self respect while also respecting the other person.
Observe Your Feelings
The second reason we renege on our initial desire to set the boundary is that we forgot our initial feelings. How do you feel when you’re around that person? We’re often told to not trust our emotions, but there’s a lot of science about the vibrations that go out from our heart and our brain. We actually do pick up signals from that other person!
There may be a person that’s speaking in a very friendly manner to you – their words are very supportive. However, you just get this sense that there’s something not genuine about their words. This happened to me with a person I’ve known for a couple of years. I actively supported and promoted them in many ways. Often my support was returned with silence or petty digs instead of thanks. I now see I was ‘overgiving’.
Sometimes this person said really supportive words to me, but my gut was telling me that there’s something not right here-and their actions and behaviours often told me a different story. Some of their words hinted that they were trying to compete with me or somehow felt they had to send petty digs my way that were unconstructive. My gut was telling me to walk away.
In the end it took me a long time and I would set what I’m calling boomerang boundaries here. I would set a boundary and then I’d kind of go back and support them, support their business, use some of their services. But there just seemed to be something there that made me think, ‘This is not right!’ But in the end I received a huge, strong message from the universe -in a very humorous way-saying, ‘Linda, you’ve done everything you can. You are actually reading it right and so really, set the boundary with this person and stop bringing their energy into your life.’
Ignore the Guilt
The third reason we go back on our boundaries is because we’re feeling guilty. Sometimes you can feel guilty when you set boundaries with people and what can happen is that they sense that you’ve set the boundaries. They’ve sensed that you’re being firm with them. They’ll come back as nice as they can be to you. And you sometimes can be confused even though in the back of your mind there is still that nagging sense of insincerity.
One of the other things that can happen, especially on social media, is there may be a few other people that support that person and say, ‘They’re so great… they’re so wonderful.’ This is happening with this person that I’ve set boundaries with. For a moment I ended up thinking, maybe I’m reading it wrong. But then I thought, ‘No, my relationship with that person has been that way for some reason.’ They’ve had some resentment, or shown some toxic competitiveness, or something that just makes our interactions, when they seem friendly, somehow incongruent. There’s some undercurrent there that I’m no longer going to be a part of. Therefore it’s really important to be sure that it’s not a false guilt.
I also checked in with a friend who is very honest with me-to be sure I was not being unfair,unkind or overlooking something. I know she’s very insightful about things. When I shared my experience with her, and mentioned that I was thinking about purchasing one more service from that person, my friend said, ‘Absolutely not! Don’t you see the pattern here? You know, you need to just see the pattern here and just say, end of story.’ It was really helpful to consult with my friend, because sometimes you kind of keep second guessing yourself.
So if you do set boomerang boundaries, first of all don’t feel guilty. Don’t feel like you’re being a weak person. I think most of us set boomerang boundaries from time to time, but just learn from the experience. Think about what the pattern is, what you are feeling. Decide whether you sense something not quite right with your experience with that person. Decide whether you are feeling guilty and whether it is false guilt.
I think what you’ll find is that as you start to set boundaries more and more, it becomes easier to do. As you’ve set boundaries and released that person and that situation you were in, you’ll have such a sense of freedom.
As a result, you’ll create room for more appropriate people to come into your life.
In 2012 I wrote a blog post When do you walk away which gives more insight into when, how and why to set boundaries–and how sometimes it is not easy! Click on the title or click here to read it.
What are your thoughts?
WORTH CHECKING OUT