A finger drawing a boundary in the sand

I am a public school teacher.   I only wish there was a class offered to young folks about boundaries. I wish I had taken a class on how to set boundaries. It would have made all the difference in my life. Unfortunately or fortunately, I didn’t begin to learn how to set boundaries until I was 45 and in the midst of a hellish divorce from an abusive husband.  Learning what boundaries actually were and how to set them without guilt has made major changes in how I decide to conduct my life and how I interact with people and myself. According to Anne Katherine, the author of the book, Where to Draw the Line, boundaries are limits that you set to protect yourself from the negative while allowing the good stuff to flow in.  It acts as your compass guiding you toward what is in line with your integrity and your spirit. Your boundaries help you see more clearly about what matters and what you want in your life and what needs to be left behind. During the course of my divorce, and to this day, I practice setting boundaries learning each and every time. The more you do it, the more comfortable you become with who you are, what you believe in, and how you want to run your life. As with any new skill, it takes practice, support of others, and learning “on the job”. These are some examples of situations where knowing how to set a boundary comes in handy:

  • You have made plans after work to go to a yoga class. Your boss/principal comes rushing into your office/classroom with an urgent request for you to attend an evening meeting that night to recruit volunteers. This is the third time this has happened in the last three weeks. What do you do?
  • Your mother disapproves of the man you are dating. She cites the age difference as the reason you should not date this person. You are 48 years old. What do you do?

Let me be clear. I am not a perfect boundary setter. Sometimes I work too many hours. Other times, I keep my schedule too booked up, not leaving enough time for space in my life. But… in the way I let people in and how I trust, I am a very different person from the person I was in 2010.  I am unrecognizable in some ways. Setting boundaries can make some folks you are dealing with uncomfortable. When you used to be a door mat with some friends, some family members, and your ex – this change can be unsettling when you start to say no or no more. But the more comfortable you are with who you are becoming, the more you realize “How come I didn’t learn this in school?”

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