When It’s Time to Flex Your "Setting a Boundary" Muscle

I posted a question on my instagram story the other day — “what lets you know that you need to put up a boundary?”, and I was blown away by the wisdom and authenticity in the answers from our community.

“Help I need a boundary” mood, via  @theobonaparte

“Help I need a boundary” mood, via @theobonaparte

I was in the middle of a weekend with houseguests, and struggling intensely to find the words to express my limits and needs. I recognized clearly that it was my responsibility to draw boundaries and be direct, but even so, I was wrought with anxiety about doing so.

Over the past few years, I’ve built a “coping toolbox” filled with language which I use to communicate my health limitations to family and friends. I have figured out how to: “say no to invites" or “explain why “x” activity won’t work for me”. It took a lot of practice, and some trial and error to come up techniques and words that felt comfortable for me. However, as I found myself struggling to set limits with my guests, it hit me that I have a much harder time flexing my boundary muscle in my own home and advocating for my needs there.

In part, that is because I now have more space, so I have the capability to host people. I realize that in the same way that I learned to set boundaries when leaving the house, I need some practice developing that skill within my own walls. I rely on my home as a little sanctuary, a safe container where I can rest and escape the pressures of socializing and advocating for myself when I am struggling physically. I often hibernate when I don’t feel strong enough to draw boundaries. This pattern has allowed me to avoid flexing my boundary muscle when I am struggling most (aka: when I often need boundaries the most).

I look back and see that the whole weekend was a valuable lesson. Having houseguests reflected back to me an area of personal development where I have some serious room for growth. I’ve cultivated a keen awareness of my thoughts and emotions, so I could clearly identify that “icky” internal angst of feeling my boundaries pushed (I’m pretty sure that you guys know that feeling well). However, I found it incredibly challenging to speak up about them.

Some of my “it’s time to put up a boundary cues” included:

  • Increased reactivity

  • Feeling overwhelmed and drained

  • Difficulty following conversations

  • Irritability

  • Worrying way too much about what other people think.

Here are some of the ways you guys described knowing it is time to draw a boundary:

Ya girl — fresh outta spoons!

Ya girl — fresh outta spoons!

  • “A pit in my stomach”

  • “When I’m wishing someone wasn’t there, or I wish I was at home, etc… I know I need to step back”

  • “My gut drops and I realize I never asked or said what I want/need, so my boundary can’t be respected”

  • “When I’m still wondering 6 hours later about something that seems off

  • “When I start to feel resentment toward a person, event or thing”

  • “When I see my spirit waning; I always want to put my best face forward, not only for others, but also for me”

  • “Mixing up words or sentences, pain when I talk or getting irritated with people!”

  • “I need to work on boundaries. I tend to go until I literally can’t anymore” — me too sister, me too…

  • “Tinnitus shouting in my ear…dizziness…”

  • “An anxious, tight feeling in my stomach”

  • “A gut feeling. I’m scared to or don’t know how to though”

  • “When my stress level is too high and my mood is impacted”

  • “Feeling irritation!!”

  • “One bad vibe. Intuition never lies” — yas girl!

  • “When someone doesn’t respect my space and my choices”

  • “When I’m irritated or mad!”

  • “When I start to react to things instead of being mindful” — hyper-reactivity is one of my main “boundary alarms” too!

  • “When I feel more drained than fulfilled from the situation”

  • “I notice I’ve asked someone to repeat themselves three times or my friends notice my eyelids droop”

  • “The feeling that I might vomit and pass out at once”

Safe to say — this community gets it when it comes to boundaries! 👏

Setting healthy boundaries is important in all relationships, (something I frequently need to remind myself of). It’s easy for me to feel like boundaries are a punishment-esque response. So, I tend to shy away from setting them because I don't want the people around me to feel like they are doing something wrong. This played into my struggle to articulate and share my limits with others in my home. I am slowly reframing how I view these limits and releasing an old belief that says: “you don’t need boundaries with the people you really love and who really love you”. I am working hard to let that one go because I am realizing that is just not. true.

Did you hear that? Like, reallyyyy hear that? You can ask the people you love to respect your boundaries — and it doesn’t mean you love them any less!

…and I am in charge of protecting it, via  @spiritualcreative

…and I am in charge of protecting it, via @spiritualcreative

Boundaries are an essential element of human interaction.

I’m learning to embrace boundaries as tools that can help me feel more “right”, more settled and grounded, around the people I love most. By treating my needs and myself with respect, I allow myself to show up more fully for all of the people in my life.

Nobody wins from a grumpy Natalie with frayed energy and a totally reactive and exhausted mind. Not me, not my boyfriend, not my brother, not my friends, not the pharmacist, not the delivery guy, not the person on the other end of the phone doing their best to answer my question and not even my best canine buddy! The lesson that emerged from hosting people in my space was clear as day: the only person in charge of drawing the boundaries necessary to preserve the calm, centered and grounded Natalie is…me!

I hope that this is helpful for you. Life with chronic illness can sometimes feel like the olympic games of boundary setting, but the more we practice using them, the more olympian and graceful we will become in the execution of those skills. Sending lots of love and empowered “take care of you” vibes to everyone!

Natalie Sayre1 Comment