Apr 20

Boundaries: Brene Brown’s Newest Focus

I assumed that people weren’t doing their best so I judged them and constantly fought being disappointed, which was easier than setting boundaries. Boundaries are hard when you want to be liked and when you are a pleaser hellbent on being easy, fun, and flexible. Brené Brown, Rising Strong

Brené Brown defines boundaries in Rising Strong (2015) as “simply our lists of what’s okay and what’s not okay.” More of her explanation:

It’s so straightforward and it makes sense for all ages in all situations. When we combine the courage to make clear what works for us and what doesn’t with the compassion to assume people are doing their best, our lives change. Yes, there will be people who violate our boundaries, and this will require that we continue to hold those people accountable. But when we’re living in our integrity, we’re strengthened by the self-respect that comes from the honoring of our boundaries, rather than being flattened by disappointment and resentment.

On the other hand, “When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice” (The Gifts of Imperfection).

Another pertinent quote from Rising Strong: “Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”

If you’d like to know more about how to set boundaries, Brown gives three useful tips on Oprah.com (all directly quoted):

Make a mantra. I need something to hold on to—literally—during those awkward moments when an ask hangs in the air. So I bought a silver ring that I spin while silently repeating, “Choose discomfort over resentment.” My mantra reminds me that I’m making a choice that’s critical for my well-being—even if it’s not easy.

Keep a resentment journal. Whenever I’m marching around muttering cuss words under my breath, I grab what I lovingly refer to as my Damn It! Diary and write down what’s going on. I’ve noticed that I’m most resentful when I’m tired and overwhelmed—i.e., not setting boundaries.

Rehearse. I’ll often say, to no one in particular, “I can’t take that on” or “My plate is full.” Like many worthwhile endeavors, boundary setting is a practice.

Lindsay Holmes (Huffington Post) recently asked psychologist Chad Buck to list the benefits of improving your boundary-setting. His responses are as follows:

1. You’re more self-aware.
2. You become a better friend and partner.
3. You take better care of yourself.
4. You’re less stressed.
5. You’re a better communicator.
6. You start trusting people more.
7. You’re less angry.
8. You learn how to say “no.”
9. You end up doing things you actually want to do.
10. You become a more understanding person.