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How do you react when your boundaries are crossed?

When your boundaries are crossed – when someone steps over that invisible line, either invasively or because you let them – how do you react?

What happens when your boundaries are crossed?

What happens when your boundaries are crossed?

We have been exploring boundaries a lot in recent weeks, as it is something that I deal with regularly in my work as a life coach. And now we come to a particularly thorny issue: the challenge of maintaining boundaries, and what we do when they are crossed. I still am in the realm of work boundaries here – we will start to consider personal boundaries over the next couple of weeks – but some of the root issues are the same.

And of course, most of it comes down to two things

motive and values

Why do we do what we do? I had a fabulous evening with a couple of dear friends from college recently, and of course we indulged in a spot of reminiscing. Our (to me, slightly creepy) psychology lecturer would take great delight first thing on a Monday morning fixing us with his beady little eyes, and inquiring “What did YOU do this weekend?”. The question was always loaded with suggestion and judgement. He never expected, nor obtained, an answer, and all he was doing was making us think –

what were the motives behind our behaviour, and what did those motives say about what mattered most to us?

Let’s consider a relatively minor example, but one that highlights the underlying emotions, motives and values. When you reply to a work email late at night, or at the weekend – why? What are your emotions telling you? Are you responding

  • because you like to be needed, you have been contacted after all so you must be important?
  • to prove yourself to your boss, your colleagues, yourself?
  • you enjoy the job perhaps more than you’d admit, and more than whatever else you happen to be doing at the time, even if it involves family or recreation, and especially if it involves mundane tasks that you would rather not do (but the doing of that task would show love and affirmation to your nearest-and-dearest)?
  • because you are afraid of the consequences of not responding? Fear of getting it wrong?
  • because your work load is such that it is quicker and easier to deal with it there and then rather than have it looming the next work day, alongside the mountain of other work?

Now, many of these reactions are valid, and as ever, none of this is straightforward. The key here is to pay attention to what is going on, and why. What is the impact of your decision? What are the underlying motives, and what does that say about you and your boundaries? What is the most important thing here, and how committed are you to that? Step back and see the bigger picture of what is most important to you in the long term, and therefore how that affects your decision.

Is this really a reflection of your levels of self esteem or self confidence – perhaps if you are really honest with yourself, your worth is tied up rather more in what others think of you than you would care to admit out loud.

How to address this then? Perhaps send a holding email, thanking the sender and politely but firmly assuring them of your full attention when you are next at work. Perhaps explain calmly and firmly – these are my working hours, and I am fully committed to working hard and well within them, with these exceptions. Perhaps assure your nearest-and-dearest that whilst work is important, there will never be an end to it and time with them is more important. Perhaps a conversation about workload and expectations are required with your boss or colleagues – this takes proactivity and confidence, but the alternative is to continue to have your boundaries invaded.

But you know, perhaps there is something deeper going on, in regards to how you see yourself and your worth. Many reasons can create this situation of low self worth and confidence, and navigating your way through it alone can feel too monumental a challenge.

If this is you – perhaps now is the time to get in touch here for your free taster session, and see if we can work together to rebuild who you are. To firmly establish you as a unique and amazing individual, and therefore to know what it is you are protecting with boundaries. And thus to gain the confidence to know how to respond when your boundaries are crossed.



One Thought on “How do you react when your boundaries are crossed?

  1. Pingback: Do you suffer from 'hardening of the oughteries'?

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