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Why We Can’t Even When It Comes To Boundaries

Written by: Nicole Dupuis, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Nicole Dupuis

Boundaries are essential. We need boundaries to focus, to propel forward, to prioritize, to do good work, and to give ourselves time and attention. That doesn’t mean that when I say the word “boundaries” to clients, a frosty chill doesn’t enter the room. Isn’t there any other way?

 

Wooden fence on mountain in grascale photo

Boundaries are hard and often feel rude, unnecessary, and uncomfortable to explain. We feel we shouldn’t need them. We are very much of a do-it-all-ourselves mindset as a culture. We shouldn’t have to say “no” to anything because that implies weakness. On some level, when we set a boundary, we internalize said boundary as, “I am unable to” or “I can’t seem to figure out how to.”

 

We are people pleasers. We want to please everyone. We don’t want conflict or to offend anyone. We want to be the person who says “yes” because that says something about us. Setting boundaries is limiting our opportunities. If we set a boundary, what might we be missing out on? A promotion? A raise? The next great BIG THING?!?!? The fear of missing out, coupled with being on a mission to make others happy, keeps boundaries at the very bottom of our To-Do list.

 

When I started working at one of my non-profit jobs, I had a long weekend planned. I was taking two days off from work and I would be traveling both of those days. It was truly going to be a vacation. I remember locking my computer away in my desk before heading out on my last day in the office. My boss stopped me and said that I should probably bring my computer “just in case.” I attempted to set a boundary, saying that I didn’t think anything pressing would be making its way into my inbox, and failed miserably, returning to my desk, unlocking the drawer, and bringing my laptop on my vacation, only to never open it, and taking a little extra time going through airport security.

 

To be clear, my role at this non-profit absolutely never experienced urgent requests, deadlines, or demands. I was a grant writer, submitting proposals and paperwork to organizations and individuals in hopes of getting financial support for our cause. These grant submissions had strict deadlines that we knew about months (often a year) in advance. So again, no surprises which meant, nothing would have suddenly popped up on a 4-day weekend. But I caved anyway. Why? Because in that moment, not bringing my laptop with me on vacation was a reflection of my work ethic and dedication. Not traveling with my computer meant that I didn’t care about my job.


Many of us have probably succumbed to similar instances because there was a depiction of ourselves we built in our heads that is untrue. I did care about my job. I also was smart. I knew that no emails would come through over the weekend and that having a properly-worded out of office message would explain any unanswered emails for the time I was away. But I didn't listen to my gut, I listened to the fake narrative being designed by my own negative self-talk that was being fed and nurtured by my boss.

 

So let’s set the record straight on boundaries.

 

Boundaries are not selfish. If we set boundaries, it is often not just for ourselves, but out of consideration for others. For example, if you have a full work day, back-to-back meetings and someone stops by your office and asks “You have a sec,” you saying “no” is not selfish regarding your busy schedule, but it is considerate of the other person. You are not trying to squeeze that person in between meetings when you don’t really have the time or attention span. Rather, you want to ensure you are giving of your best self. Doesn’t sound very selfish to me.

 

Boundaries don’t mean saying “no.” When we think of boundaries, we often think of saying “no.” And sometimes, that can be true. But it is more about understanding what you need FIRST, and then offering what you have left. For example, if you have a big project you are focused on this week, if someone asks if you can help them with their presentation, you may not have time to give them this week, but you have time next week. Or maybe you cannot give them time every day this week but you feel confident about your project so that by the end of the week, you can give them a couple of hours. It is determining what you can give versus just giving with no consideration of your own goals and focus areas. It is a matter of sequencing versus hard lines of “yes” and “no.”

 

People like it when you set boundaries. It’s true. I have had many clients succumb to the peer pressure of their coach (that’s me), and set boundaries with their partner, friends, or at work. The response, up to this point, has been positive. There might be some envious comments here and there; people wishing they could also set boundaries, but overall, people get it. We assume that people will be gravely offended. How DARE you set a boundary (think Saruman’s voice from The Lord of the Rings). But typically, being on the receiving end of a boundary helps us navigate better. We know what we can and cannot expect from you. It’s not a bad or good thing, it just provides clarity and allows us to move on with our priorities and what we need.


You don’t have to explain your boundaries to anyone. We all work, think, act, see things differently. For example, I may like an extensive timeline to prepare for a presentation. I may put the slides together first, then my talking points, and I may like to have at least 2 weeks to get a good draft going. Someone else may like to write an outline first and then adapt slides to match the outline. They might like only a few days to prepare so it stays fresh in their minds.


Neither method is better but both methods may need boundaries set for us to do our best. But all of that does not need to be explained. Just because someone next to us needs different boundaries for preparing a presentation or none at all (or more likely, needs them but hasn’t figured out how to set them), doesn’t mean we have to defend our own boundaries. The justification is in the results. If someone wants a great presentation, a well-worded email, or a successful child’s birthday party, there are probably boundaries that work for you to get the desired result. How you get there is your own.

 

Boundaries don’t have to be as harsh, difficult, anxiety-producing, or as inconvenient as we make them. They support us in our routines, systems, and processes so those around us get the best version of us and our work. The more we regularly introduce boundaries into our workflows and our personal lives, the less disruptive they can be. If we make a boundary awkward and heavy, it will be. If we follow a natural path of setting boundaries that complement our communication style and how we function best, setting boundaries will provide composed and supportive environments and more effective individuals.


Let’s connect! Check out my website, or connect with me on Instagram or LinkedIn.


Nicole Dupuis Brainz Magazine
 

Nicole Dupuis, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Nicole Dupuis' coaching background started in the financial industry where she first discovered the art of tackling topics such as confidence, communication, goal setting, and time management. Nicole's coaching encourages clients in self discovery and exploration, guiding them to the most impactful action. Nicole coaches leaders in Fortune 100 companies, and small business owners in industries such as finance, tech and marketing. She has clients in over 5 countries and her company, Find Clarity Here, prioritizes finding clarity above all else.

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