Know Your Boundaries

A few weeks ago, I shared 5 Ways to Be a Badass.  #3 on the list is “Know Your Boundaries.” 

I remember the first time I stepped into a classroom as a new teacher. I had no idea if I would be effective with boundaries. I am not the loudest or firmest person, and I have an extra large supply of empathy. I wondered if my students would walk all over me and if I could handle the emotional toll of supporting them through crises and difficult situations. To make matters worse, before school started my assistant principal told me that students are like sharks: if they smell blood in the water (lack of confidence), they eat young teachers alive.

Turns out I had the poise and strength necessary to establish effective classroom and emotional boundaries. Students sensed that I cared, and my humor and vulnerability tended to disarm them. Thanks to the support and guidance of my mentors, over time I  learned strategies that reinforced my boundaries and ensured the safety and learning of my students.

Now, as I approach 50 I am once again discovering the importance of boundaries. This time, it is in the pursuit of swagger.

I’m not going to lie. Living with swagger and knowing my boundaries aren’t always easy for me. Here are a few of the things I am working on.

  • Finding the appropriate line between supporting others and taking care of my own well-being;
  • Being able to determine when things are about me and when they aren’t;
  • Feeling strong and capable, while also being able to ask for the help I need;
  • Giving myself space to rest and recharge when there is so much to do.

I am finding that the boundaries I seek are about two important factors: balance and commitment. 

Without attention to balance, boundaries feel cold and they can contradict my core values such as compassion, generosity, and impact. Similarly, swagger without balance is cockiness, a trait I don’t admire at all. 

Boundaries require commitment because they aren’t easy. And often the hardest type of commitment is commitment to ourselves. I refer to this list of commitments* regularly.

  1. I’m committed to building a powerful, protective boundary around myself and my priorities.
  2. I’m committed to making change in my life when something isn’t working.
  3. I’m committed to being fully present and engaged in all that I do. 
  4. I’m committed to nurturing my health and well-being because I matter.
  5. I’m committed to letting go of the people and things that drag me down and make me feel small.
  6. I’m committed to seeing life as a continuum with priorities that will change over time.
  7. I’m committed to building a community of people who are happy to help me when I need it.
  8. I’m committed to loving myself exactly as I am.
  9. I’m committed to identifying and pursuing what I have to do in my life to be happy and regret-free.
  10. I’m committed to leaving an impactful legacy behind, and planting the seeds for that legacy all along the way.

When I read this list, I am reminded how strong I am and that my strength comes from within.

*Adapted from Kathy Caprino, to be particularly helpful.

8 comments

  1. Sharon, once again…wow. This post is so powerful with such self awareness and insight – beautiful to read your own reflections and so generous of you to share them with us! I love the commitment list and the note about being healthy because “I matter”. Love you and love this!

  2. Thank you for the very badass post! I think a lot of us struggle with the concept of boundaries and swagger.

  3. Sharon, Thank you so much for sharing this in our Hivery Mindset Monday. These are wonderful, and I look forward to adapting them for myself.

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