How To Set Clear Firm Healthy Boundaries [Step #1]

One of the most frequent issues I mentor my clients on is in the area of setting boundaries. In my recent post “How To Set Clear Firm Healthy Boundaries Without Feeling Guilty” I shared my 5 steps to setting a boundary: see it, study it, say it, share it, and seek support.

Setting boundaries help us have healthier and happier relationships with others and it helps us solidify our identity and define our personal territory. Today we are going to focus on the first step:

SEE IT: Recognize Where You Lack Boundaries

With boundaries, as in any healing journey, self-awareness is the first step to transformation. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know and it is what keeps us stuck.

I had to learn a lot about the concept of boundaries before I could even realize that I didn’t have any. Many of us have been there:

  • We say when we really want to say no.
  • We tolerated abusive behavior
  • We go against my own desires and goals, settling for someone else’s sake.

Simply put, we dull our own shine because of a disease to please. We lose ourselves in someone else’s idea of whom they believed we should be. Sometimes it isn’t until we hit rock bottom that we decide to draw a line and say “enough!”

self-awareness is the first step to transformation ~ Elayna Fernandez The Positive Mom

Justification is just a fancy word for denial. We simply cannot change what we don’t admit. And sometimes, even when we are painfully aware of what causes us misery, we just can’t bring ourselves to change.

One of my dear friends, Les Brown, who is a bestselling author, master motivational speaker and the mentor who inspired me to become a public speaker, often tells a story of a dog and an nail to illustrate how we settle for pain just to avoid change:

“There was a man who had to pass many dogs who would bark at him as he walked home. One day, one dog in particular caught his attention – and his curiosity -, because instead of barking, he was sitting on the porch whimpering as if he were in pain, though it wasn’t obvious why. The next day, all the dogs bark, except this same dog, who was now moaning… and the man just didn’t get why.  The week went by and the dog was still groaning on the porch and he couldn’t figure out what the deal was.

The man decided to find out what was happening, so he knocked on the door:
“Yes, how may I help you?” said the man who opened the door.
“Good morning, Sir, is this your dog?” he asked
“Yes, that’s my dog.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“What do you mean ‘what’s wrong with him’?”
“Well, he’s the only dog on my walk home who doesn’t bark and instead whines, whimpers, moans, and groans.  Why is that?”
“Well, he’s actually sitting on a nail,” the dog owner replied.
“What?!  Your dog is sitting on a nail?  Why doesn’t he get off?” He asked in an alarming tone.
“Well, it just doesn’t hurt him enough.”

Les Brown quote: Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears

I’ve been that dog sitting on a nail a lot of times. Have you?

We sometimes tolerate painful situations because they are familiar to us and it would be very uncomfortable, and sometimes temporarily excruciating, to move toward freedom. Let’s explore how we can become aware of the nails we are sitting on:

3 Ways To Identify Areas Where Boundaries Are Needed

In my mentoring sessions with moms, I sometimes ask them to write a “boundary wish-list,” which is a list of everything you hold dear, defining what you wish to protect about it. For example, if time with your kids is important to you, start thinking about how you could protect the time you want to spend together. Make the items as specific as possible by considering every possible scenario in all areas of your life: career, home, relationships, health, finances, spirituality, and any other areas that matter to you.

Another way to get clear on what your limits are is to write down your standards: what you will no longer tolerate in life, what you stand for, what you expect. For example, a mom I mentored a few years ago felt demoralized by her husband’s desire to look at a certain type of publication (that I won’t specify to repel showing up on those searches). She decided to step away from that relationship and now she enjoys an amazing marriage with a man who holds her same Christian values and considers those practices to be infidelity.

A third way I am going to offer to discover your limits and boundaries is to ask yourself these questions about your day to day interactions with others:

  1. What causes you to feel uncomfortable, stressed, disregarded, disrespected, unheard, frustrated, resentful, or pressured to do something that wasn’t “part of the plan”?
  2. What are some things that make you want to cry?
  3. What drains your energy or personal power?
  4. What gives you tension, anxiety, or forms a “knot in your stomach or throat”?
  5. What are some areas in your life where you could use more space?

I encourage you to spend some time with yourself and learn what boundaries need strengthening in every area of your life. It’s time to get off that proverbial nail and discover what we can change, so we can find hope, healing, and happiness.

Using the 3 methods above, do you SEE any areas where moms need boundaries?

PS. This is the second post in my “Boundaries In Motherhood” series. Stay tuned!

Elayna Fernandez - Author - 
Speaker - Success Guide to Moms and Mompreneurs
© Elayna Fernández ~ The Positive MOM

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29 thoughts on “How To Set Clear Firm Healthy Boundaries [Step #1]

  1. Setting boundaries is something I’ve been forced to learn how to do over the past year, and I’m still working on it. I always feel like if nobody else is going to do the job, I need to step in. But who am I to say that the job needs to be done in the first place?
    And then of course, it’s a matter of letting it go. That’s where I’m still struggling, lol! But like anything else, it’s huge life lesson that will make things so much easier in the future!

  2. When my boys go to sleep I have to stay up for about two to three hours after just to sit in the quiet to take some me time because I don’t get much space during the day. I need to work on a lot in this article.

  3. This is really an inspirational and helpful post. I know everyone struggles with making and keeping boundaries. As a child I tolerated abusive relationships and it certainly does effect how I manage my boundaries as an adult. I really like the idea of writing down my standards so it is clear and precise.

  4. This is a great article. I think WAHMs tend to suffer from the misconception that working at home equals lots of free time. I write full-time, even if it is from my cozy chair — and learning to say NO has helped me keep work, home, hubby and kids in balance. Thanks!

  5. This is eye opening. As far as boundaries go, I’m kind of clueless. I don’t know with who to set boundaries for. My kids drive me insane much of the time, but you can’t really set boundaries with kids.

  6. Beautiful post and message as always. I agree that we all need to spend time examining our thoughts, decisions and the motives behind them. Drawing a line in the sand is important to our survival and to maintaining a healthy boundary. You said it well! Love that photo of you and Les Brown.

  7. Boundaries have been an issue of mine throughout my life. I either give too much to too many people, constantly trying to please them with everything I have at the expense of myself, or I close myself off completely, allowing no one and nothing in and keeping everyone at arms length. You are so right that self-awareness is the first step to transforming ourselves. I need to be done with dulling my own shine, now just to actually put that thought into action! Phenomenal post, as always!

  8. I love this. I spent so many of my younger years doing things because they weren’t bad enough to stop or leave but now I do what makes my family and I happy.

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  14. I like the strategy of thinking about day-to-day interactions to determine where boundaries need to be placed. I’m taking notes, thanks for sharing!

  15. Self-awareness is so important, but as I have learned through our coaching sessions is that it takes more than intention for us to be successful. I know I’ve made some progress in setting boundaries, but I still have a way to go.

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