Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you realized you needed boundaries with someone? Perhaps you find the need for boundaries within your work space, family, or friendships. Or perhaps more often than not, the need for boundaries is with yourself. It can be challenging to communicate our needs surrounding our boundaries, but it is so important to set and maintain boundaries in our lives in order to protect our time, energy, capacity, and more.
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We are so thrilled to be celebrating 200 episodes of the show with you!
After polling you all, we found that a lot of listeners were interested in hearing a conversation on the topic of boundaries, which is how we landed on this topic for this episode. Episode 20 of the show, way back when, covers this topic in a solo version format with Esther, so definitely check that one out if you want more thoughts and resources on what having boundaries looks like as a leader.
What are boundaries?
Boundaries are lines that we draw to delineate where something stops and something else starts. It is keeping something in or keeping something out.
We can have boundaries in relationships with others, but we also can and should have them with ourselves for our own self growth, and to keep ourselves healthy.
Why do we need boundaries?
Boundaries keep us safe, and are not there to restrict us.
Boundaries also help us to preserve things like peace, safety, preserving yourself, family, harmony, etc.
Boundaries also help us to define our own behavior and decide what we’re going to allow ourselves to do or allow other people to do to us.
Where do we need boundaries?
Boundaries with Our Time
As women in leadership, often we want to say yes to everything. We want to be able to be available to everyone, we want to give and serve and show up in a lot of different ways.
If you don’t put boundaries around your time, at some point you will get burned out. Also, we all have a different level of capacity and energy levels at different seasons of our lives. These are closely related to time as well.
Episode 171 of the podcast with Christy Wright dives deeper into this thought of protecting your time, capacity, and energy.
A practical example of this can be deciding when you’re going to finish up work for the day. It can be difficult when what we do is something we love, and we feel a passion for. But we need to remember that the good things are not something we need to be doing at all times.
Boundaries in Our Relationships:
Boundaries in relationships go two ways: how other people treat you & how you treat others.
Communication is essential in setting boundaries with others. You can’t expect someone to automatically know what is a boundary for you and what is not.
Boundaries in Work Relationships:
In work, you might need boundaries with your team members. If you are supervising other people, or you are overseeing people in some capacity as a leader, you’re going to need to have boundaries set up with those team members.
You might need boundaries with co-workers, a boss, and clients depending on what type of job you have.
Make sure you’re communicating your boundaries effectively, and most of the time people will respect those boundaries that you lay out.
Boundaries in Family Relationships:
- Boundaries in marriage: Having boundaries in marriage is not about building walls to keep your spouse out. It’s about understanding where both of you need to be healthy. Additionally, it’s not just about how you want your spouse to treat you, but it’s about how you’re treating your spouse. Sometimes we even need to set boundaries for ourselves by giving ourselves time outs to gather ourselves before entering into conversations with our spouse.
- Boundaries with kids: How your family is going to live out your values and act in the world. You can set boundaries with your kids by saying something like, “In this family, this is how we act.” When you set boundaries with your kids, it helps them to know how they will live and act in the world.
In this generation of parenting, a huge boundary we need to set for our kids surrounds screen time and social media. This is so hard to manage and looks different for each family, but we do have to create boundaries around these things in order to set parameters for our family and kids.
- Boundaries with other family members: There’s quite a spectrum of how we can have boundaries with our other family members.
*There is the distinct side of domestic abuse which we discuss in full in Episode 138. Please listen in there for a full conversation for support on that topic. Having to set those boundaries, even if people don’t believe you or support you, in the long run is necessary for the sake of safety for yourself and for your family.*
- Friendship Boundaries: Use discernment about when and how to share your boundaries with friends. With new friends, it can be wise to know when and how much to share as you grow in friendship. If you are building a friendship, a lot of times it’s wise to build that gradually. There might also be times where you have to set up boundaries with friends if they are doing things that are not comfortable for you, or expecting things that are not realistic for you.
On the flip side, don’t give up on friendships too easily. Have healthy and realistic expectations for friendships and don’t give up on friendships that you feel don’t ‘serve you’. The idea of cutting people out or just getting rid of people in your life because they’re not doing something for you is not a biblical or Christ like approach to relationships.
Boundaries with Our Behavior:
We need to have boundaries around what we will do and won’t do, what we take in, and how we behave. Temptations or struggles can be food, alcohol, certain entertainment, or media, social media, sleep, etc. There are many things that can become idols or passions, or can consume our life in really strong ways. We have to be actively guarding against those things by creating boundaries within our own lives.
An example of this might be not making important life decisions when you are too hungry, tired, stressed, anxious, etc. Having the boundary in place to know when you are able to make the best decision is very wise.
4 Step Process for How to Set Boundaries:
- Decide: Consider these 4 things when creating boundaries for your life. If you can decide on what these look like for you, you can more easily discern what your boundaries will be in most areas of your life.
- What are your values?
- What are your priorities?
- What safety do you need to maintain?
- What keeps you healthy?
- Communicate: Communicate boundaries to others and to ourselves. As you’re communicating, consider these 5 things:
- Always be kind and respectful, exercising self-control when sharing the boundaries you have created.
- Don’t apologize for the boundaries you have created.
- ‘No’ is okay to say
- Learn to be okay with silence
- People are not always going to like it, but hopefully they will respect it.
- Enforce: If someone breaks your boundary, you might have to remind them of your boundary. If it continues, you might have to remove yourself or someone else from the situation. Protect yourself and make sure you have clear consequences for what may happen if the person does not honor your boundary.
In some situations, especially when it’s boundaries with yourself, you may need accountability.
Esther’s Confident Conversation’s Mini Course is a great resource for how to engage in hard conversations like this. Make sure to check it out if you feel like you may benefit from some specific guidance on having difficult conversations.
- Reevaluate and Adjust:
Reflect on how the boundary has played out in your life.
- Ask the Lord to speak into your situation. It is important to be asking for some guidance and discernment on how the whole process went, and whether or not you need to readjust, reframe or reevaluate that boundary that you set.
- Speak to a trusted friend or mentor for feedback.
- Be okay with the action you need to take. Maybe it’s walking away, maybe it’s enforcing more boundaries, or maybe it’s your own inner healing.
Special Bonus Boundaries Hack:
Don’t try to set too many boundaries at once! Doing that sets us up for failure.
Set boundaries gradually and learn to build up the resilience that you need to set those boundaries. Make sure to get the support that you might need and have the extra accountability in place to create more and more boundaries as well.
For more information on how to set boundaries, check out Esther’s Free Guide to 23 Practical Ways to Set Boundaries! It’s a free digital download you can get right to your device!
Books & Podcast Episodes about Boundaries:
Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri and Peter Scazzero
Radical Candor by Kim Scott
Nice: Why We Love to Be Liked and How God Calls Us to More by Sharon Hodde Miller, Episode 80 of CWLP
Shrinking the Integrity Gap: Between What Leaders Preach and Live by Jeff and Tara Mattson, Episode 121 of CWLP
Take Back Your Time: The Guilt-Free Guide to Life Balance by Christy Wright, Episode 171 of CWLP
Quotes to Note:
“Boundaries, if we do them proactively, allow us a lot more freedom and a lot more benefits in our lives if we set them before we end up in a situation that is challenging.” – Esther Littlefield
“Boundaries are something that can be good for us and can help us, rather than looking at them as something restrictive or difficult.” – Esther Littlefield
“It’s [God’s ordained boundaries] not about restricting us, it’s about giving us as much freedom as we can have. And keep us safe.” – Esther Littlefield
“If you don’t put boundaries around your time, you will be burnt out at some point.” – Esther Littlefield
“The boundary is not just for other people. It’s me understanding what I need in this season, and how I can stay healthy. ” – Holly Cain
“It is really important that we have boundaries in our workplace scenarios, and that we communicate them with the people that we work with.” – Esther Littlefield
“A lot of women keep doing things or keep saying yes to things that they don’t actually want to be doing, instead of just setting a boundary and standing up for themselves. And it’s time for us to stand up for ourselves.” – Esther Littlefield
“It’s very easy for friendships to get complicated as adult women. And often that complication comes because we don’t communicate with each other about what our capacity is or what our boundaries are.” – Esther Littlefield
“Sometimes we need to fight a little bit harder for our relationships, especially female leaders because we desperately need them.” – Holly Cain
“Ultimately, if we want to just boil it down, boundaries involve making a decision.” – Esther Littlefield
“By knowing your values and your priorities, it can really help you figure out where someone’s crossing a line, or why that violation is, is a big deal to you.” – Holly Cain
“Other people are not the only ones that violate our values and priorities, we do it to ourselves.” – Holly Cain
“Sometimes we do need to loosen some boundaries, to allow people to have the freedom to grow.” – Holly Cain
“Give yourself some grace that as you’re starting to create these [boundaries], that it’s not just a set it and forget it, one and done type thing. This is something you’re going to have to revisit constantly, especially with someone who you’ve never set a boundary with.” – Holly Cain
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