- Do you find that people hold you to a different standard than others?
- Do you find that coworkers are constantly asking you for help without consideration of what work you may need to do?
- Does your boss hold you to a higher standard and expectations?
- Are your kids, spouse or family members imposing on your time without asking for permission?
If so this is almost certainly creating a massive amount of stress which in turn impacts your general health and mood.
If this is what’s happening to you in total or in part you are likely a victim of “Boundary Violation”. What are boundaries? We all set boundaries for ourselves, consciously or unconsciously (knowingly or unknowingly). These boundaries define the criteria for how/when/what we do throughout the day both at home, work and in a social settings. An example of boundaries: from a work perspective; you will not take work related calls after you leave the office (assuming this is not part of your existing accountability). A personal boundary example; you go to the gym everyday at 6pm therefore no one should expect you to do something for them at that time or you want both friends and family to call before coming over to visit, no surprises and just show up.
Staying true to your boundaries will prevent “Boundary Violation” When you create an exception to your boundaries without letting the other person(s) know it’s an exception you begin to violate your own boundary. Eventually that exception becomes the new boundary. When you finally recognize as such it’s too late, the “boundary violation” has occurred. At this point you begin to blame the other person because they are taking advantage of you. At the same time this begins to create stress on your part. The synopsis of this situation is that you and you alone created the problem and allowed it to crumble your own boundary. A typical work example of this; your boss has a major problem so you get a call at home that is work related. You acknowledge and agree to help out. At this point you have now created “boundary violation” on two fronts. First you are allowed work into your personal life; secondly you compromise your time at the gym to address the boss’s problem. Typically this would not be a problem if in fact it was once and never again. However you had accommodated your boss this once you will find that next week or the week after another problem will occur… I think you begin to see the reoccurring problem. Each time you agree to help you take down another chunk of your boundary wall; eventually it becomes the new boundary. This pattern is similar with any situation, family, friends work etc.
What can you do for yourself to avoid “Boundary Violation”? Know your boundaries, write them down, have both your personal and work boundaries listed separately and let people know about your boundaries, in particular when you sense a violation present. Going back to the earlier work example; your boss calls you at home, if you feel that the situation calls for you to step in this one time then do so but do so with letting your boss know this is a onetime exception. Make sure there is an understanding communicated to your boss that states this is a clear infringement of your personal boundary however you will help out this one time. Should this occur again there will be a consequence. The consequence can be set by you and agreed to by your boss. The consequence has to be large enough so that there will be pain felt by your boss if in fact you get a second call down the road.
People unfortunately fail to understand the impact of their request or actions on you. If you allow it to happen without letting them know how their request/actions impacts you, and how this has violated your boundary they will do it repeated. The consequence is a clear anchoring of your boundary, they will know that you are serious about your boundaries and they will be less likely to violate your boundaries in the future without your permission.
Keep these steps in mind:
> Identify consciously your boundaries
> Write down work and personal boundaries
> Let me people know when appropriate about your boundaries
> If you are creating an exception make sure the other party understands this is a onetime exception and should it occur again there will be an agreed to consequence (that’s big enough and real to them and that they understand)
> Follow through on your consequence should a second violation occur (if you don’t you boundaries will collapse immediately)
> Revisit your boundaries and adjust them as you see fit based on where you are or want to be in your life path.
Following these steps will help you manage expectations and relieve the stress caused by boundary violators regardless of who they are. Even kids will adjust their requests/actions provided the consequence is real and significant.
Joe Pampena Board Certified MNLP, MTLT™, MCHt, ATC