As I sit to write, I am currently experiencing pain in my left foot. I have been hobbling for the past couple of days. I know what the problem is and I know what the solution is, so I will be fine in the next day or so. The cause of my current pain is my failure to say ‘No’ over the past week. I have indulged in a little too much junk food and when I do that, it tends to lead to some inflammation and tightness in my foot. A return to healthy eating and some targeted stretching will soon have me back walking properly. I know all this because I have been through this problem several times but I still have not learned my lesson.
Saying ‘No’ is the most common way to enforce a boundary. When somebody speaks or behaves in a manner that we are not prepared to accept, we respond with some form of ‘No, you cannot do that’. And that is how we think of boundaries, i.e. we apply them to others. It is more helpful to think of boundaries as something that we apply to people who could potentially cause problems for us and, the biggest source of our problems is our own thoughts, speech and behaviour. Therefore, boundaries must begin with ourselves. In their simplest form, boundaries are just a tool to help us determine what we should ‘Yes’ to and what we should say ‘No’ to.
I have boundaries around what I eat and don’t eat but over the past few days, I failed to adhere to my own boundaries. I allowed myself too much Ultra Processed Food, particularly in the form of bread. I could be considered a magician for how quick I can make a loaf of bread disappear, so I generally avoid it. I also allowed myself some sweets and treats which cause harmful glucose spikes and inflammation. Altogether, a very bad combination. A combination which I am now paying a price for via the pain in my foot.
I have no intention of beating myself up for my indiscretion; instead I just take the corrective action I need to take and get back on track. James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, teaches us to view habit change like an election. Every time you act in the way you intend to, you are casting a vote in favour of the person you want to be. When you slip up, don’t get disheartened, simply identify the next opportunity to cast a vote and vote in the appropriate manner. Over time, the correct ‘candidate’ will win the election.
Key points about boundaries
The following some key points I want you to remember about boundaries:
- 1Boundaries are not just for others, you must set them with yourself too
- 2Though they can seem difficult to implement, boundaries are a tool which help you to care for yourself and others
- 3You enforce your boundaries by saying ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ where appropriate
- 4Every time you enforce a boundary, you are casting a vote for the person you want to be
- 5You will slip up from time to time so, don’t beat yourself up, just enforce the boundary again
Becoming more of the person you want to be is a continuous journey over time. Be patient, be kind to yourself and enforce your boundaries (with yourself and others) with loving kindness. A little progress each day will make a massive difference over time.
If you are trying to make some changes, identify the boundaries you need to set and start taking action today.
My Life; My Rules
If you are having difficulty setting healthy and effecitve boundaries, learning to do so will drastically improve your life.
'My Life; My Rules: How to Set Healthy Boundaries' will teach you to do so.