I’d like you to meet a woman who profoundly impacted my life and business in so many ways on so many levels because I know she’ll do the same for you.
When I was still finding my legs as a newbie business owner, this woman showed me how to tune into and trust my intuition. And as I’ve grown my business, she’s helped me hone this skill and access deeper truths, guiding both my life and my business.
Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend and teacher Jess Ryan.
She’s a coach, doula, Reiki Master, certified yoga instructor, and yoga teacher trainer (and she has more degrees than you can count)! She helps people through major life and spiritual transitions by helping them learn to trust their intuition, create better boundaries, and live the life they really want to be living.
Today, she’s going to walk you through how to identify, set, and hold boundaries in life and in business because, when you “get” this, everything feels easier.
Even if you think you have good boundaries, I guarantee Jess will touch on something you haven’t heard before. As someone who considers herself pretty solid in the boundary department, Jess taught me tons in this post. Don’t miss it.
Boundaries Are Living Things
When you imagine a boundary, what comes to mind? Maybe you picture a wall — something rigid, impermeable, and fixed.
But, as Jess says, healthy boundaries are more flexible; they keep things out that are dangerous and let in the things that are good for us.
And boundaries aren’t limited to our physical and relational realms. I was surprised to learn that there are actually five different realms of boundaries!
Listen here for more about the five realms.
We need boundaries for four main functions: to protect us from things that fail to support us, to let in the people and energies that enhance our lives, to magnetize the things we need, and to bring order to our lives.
For more about these functions, listen here.
You Know You Need to Set Boundaries When…
Sometimes it’s easy to know when a boundary has been violated, like someone invading your space, treating you in a way you won’t tolerate, or physically harming you.
Other times, it’s not so clear.
Jess recommends that you pay attention to what it feels like when your boundaries are being violated. (Hint: It’s going to be different for every person.)
Here are some symptoms that one or more of your boundaries is being breached:
- You’re exhausted.
- You find yourself saying, “Why does this always happen to me?”
- You seek ways to stay invisible.
- You feel like people take advantage of you.
- You feel calm for awhile and then explode when it’s too much.
- You resist stating what you feel if you know people won’t agree with you.
- You get sick a lot and experience chronic pain.
- You ignore your basic needs like food and sleep.
- You constantly push yourself beyond your limits.
Jess talks more about the importance of getting curious and noticing your patterns around boundary violations in these episodes.
If you struggle to tune into your behavioral patterns, it’s okay. Most of us have learned to disassociate, shut down, or ignore our feelings as a protective mechanism.
That’s why Jess shares two simple ways to notice your patterns.
First, feel into your body.
Smart people who work from the head up are sometimes disconnected from their body. They believe they can think their way to a solution.
Instead, feel your way into the awareness.
Put your hands on your legs or hips when you start to feel like a boundary has been violated to ground and feel your body. This will calm your nervous system and will strengthen the physical boundary layer of your body. (For more about body awareness, check out this TED Talk with Amy Cuddy.)
Next, identify your Achilles heel
Some boundary violations are going to show up over and over (and over!) again. They’re what Jess refers to as your Achilles heel.
For instance, you might find yourself saying…
I have very needy clients.
My boss always asks me to stay late.
It’s going to disappoint my mom or my sister.
As frustrating as it is, these patterns are simply signalling old boundaries that you haven’t yet tended to.
The first step is to simply notice, without judgement or shame. Bring your awareness into your body and pay attention to your specific boundary patterns.
Jess has many more insights about this in these episodes.
How to Respond When People Push Your Boundaries
Now that you know how to recognize when your boundaries are being violated and what your patterns are, the next question is, what do you do about it?
How can you avoid flying off the handle or stuffing your feelings, and instead respond from a calm, centered place?
Here is Jess’s gentle, three-step method for responding in a healthy way:
Step 1: Get grounded and start a self-regulation practice.
First, it’s important to try to get into your body. Jess recommends a simple but effective breathing practice to shift your nervous system and help you feel safe.
Listen here for instructions on this helpful breathing exercise.
Step 2: Decide how you want to respond
Either way, make a clear, internal decision about what you’re going to do next. This helps build internal trust and create a sense of safety for yourself.
If you tend to waffle when it comes to making decisions, don’t miss this episode.
Step 3: Ask yourself what you’re saying yes to.
Remember, boundaries aren’t about creating barriers and saying no to all things.
If you’re saying no to one thing, then it follows that you’re saying yes to something else. And usually, you’re saying yes to something that’s life-affirming.
Take a moment to think about what you’re saying yes to.
You Will Fall off the Horse
Even if you have the best intentions for sticking to your boundaries, there will be days when you fall off the horse.
It’s all too easy to repeat old patterns and go into a shame tailspin. (We’ve all been there!)
Do your best to avoid self-shaming. Instead, ground into your body and nurture yourself by going for a walk, taking a bath, or just taking 15 minutes to yourself away from it all.
Take time to reflect on what happened and clarify which boundaries were violated and how you knew. Ask yourself what you could have done differently. (Remember, sometimes there’s nothing you could have done differently.)
Also ask yourself what you did well. Did you take a deep breath? Did you make space for yourself? Our brains have the capacity for negativity bias. Give yourself credit, even in the smallest way.
Finally, ask what you can do for yourself moving forward.
Taking a few moments to reflect on these questions will help you heal so that you can build your boundary-setting capacities. This builds resilience.
For more, don’t miss this episode.
Thank You, Jess!
I’m so grateful to Jess for taking the time to talk with me about boundaries on the podcast and allow us to share her wisdom here on the blog.
If you’d like to learn more about Jess, you can visit her at ourrealwork.com.
Even better, if you subscribe to the Success On Your Terms podcast in iTunes and click through to the show notes for these episodes, you’ll find Jess’s free class on boundaries so you can take these ideas even further. I think you’ll love it!