by Ariane Cunningham
I had a professional mentor early in my career say to me years ago, “Ariane, you have to set some boundaries.” Why, you may ask, did my mentor feel the need to have this ‘come to Jesus’ moment with me? At the time, I had someone to whom I directly reported to at work calling me at midnight and beyond regarding her personal life, texting me almost 24 hours a day regarding non-work related issues, and even calling me on Sundays when I would make it clear that I was spending time with my family. This individual would constantly talk negatively about our fellow coworkers, which made me extremely uncomfortable. Not only is it professionally hazardous to gossip in the workplace, but one of my core values is to strive to see the best in everyone, and not constantly speak about or focus on their flaws.
The neediness of this individual was not professional or healthy for me, and the behavior began to take a toll on my concentration at work, my private time, my personal relationships outside of work and, from a professional perspective, created quite a quandary for me as I had let the behavior of this individual continue for so long, I did not know how to stop it. After the much needed ‘come to Jesus’ moment with my mentor, I gradually began implementing boundaries for myself with this individual. I would not answer every call or text after work hours. I stopped answering calls on the weekend. I stopped sharing details about my personal life, as at times this individual would share so much (too much) personal information, and I felt obligated to share tidbits of my own personal life, guardedly, of course. If a person regularly talks negatively about others in your presence, the question becomes what are they saying about you to others. I no longer engaged in the gossip sessions regarding our team members and coworkers; I would quickly change the subject.
Well, the reaction to me setting boundaries with this person was not accepted well at all. I had become a crutch of sorts, by entertaining her needy behavior for so long, and she definitely noticed the change in my behavior once I began implementing healthy boundaries for myself. As I stopped being the crutch, in the eyes of this person, I became the enemy. I will spare you the many horrible details, but once I went from the crutch to the enemy, the work environment became extremely toxic. The extreme toxicity affected my health and my professional confidence. Thankfully, God soon blessed me with another job opportunity, allowing me a way out of the toxic environment.
It is so essential that we set healthy boundaries not only in our professional lives, but our personal lives including friends, family members, and associates. No one will set the boundaries you need in your life but you. Setting boundaries can lead to a happier and healthier you. I outline below four ways in which you can begin to set healthy boundaries for yourself.
- Know your boundaries. Identify them. Whether it is your personal time or space, gossiping, consistent negativity from others, or the way in which you allow yourself to be treated. Once you identify your boundaries it is easier to begin to implement these boundaries into your life, and communicate your boundaries with others who may be overstepping them.
- Feel empowered to let those around you know your boundaries. In the moment of a behavior that oversteps your boundaries, it is OK to say, “I feel the behavior you are demonstrating is not OK, and makes me feel uncomfortable. I would prefer this behavior to stop.” This will make it less likely for the behavior to continue. Additionally, it will make others fully aware of your boundaries.
- Stick to your core values and beliefs. Why? Because they make you, YOU. For example, if someone consistently puts others down in your presence or consistently criticizes you, address it with that individual. They may be unaware that their behavior makes you uncomfortable. If they do not respect your boundaries, it may be time to create distance with those individuals. Again, setting boundaries is about your own health and happiness. Those individuals who truly care about you will respect your boundaries.
- Finally, never let anyone set your boundaries for you. If you wish not to receive calls from someone after a certain time at night, do not do so. If you do not feel a comfortable need to overly explain a missed call or missed engagement, do not. A simple response, “I was not available, I will try my best to be available soon,” is OK. If you are uncomfortable with continuous sarcastic and comments made by an individual, it is OK to say “Your comments make me uncomfortable.” Additionally, do not feel the need to feel boxed in to apologize, overly explain, or justify your actions to someone who is trying to create boundaries for YOU. This does not mean you need to be rude or callous when setting your boundaries. It does mean that in order to have peace in our lives, fully love ourselves, and live a happier and stress-less life, we can confidently and boldly set boundaries with others and kindly let them know when they overstep your set boundaries. Creating healthy boundaries for ourselves makes all the difference in our inner peace, confidence, and overall well-being.
I welcome your thoughts and feedback on setting healthy boundaries.