Setting boundaries help you to be able to keep showing up to this very important anti-racism work without burning out. Your anti-racism journey is just that, a journey and not a sprint. In order to have a sustainable anti-racism journey, it’s essential to implement safe and effective boundaries.
It is also very important to note that a boundary is not meant to be an electric fence but, instead, a way to hold space for yourself and the things that you are ok with being involved in.
Recently I sat down with a friend of mine to discuss things that were weighing heavily on our minds and hearts. I had reached out to this friend because I was starting to feel really overwhelmed with some of the things that were going on in my world. I started to share some of the things that I was fretting about and my friend held space for my ranting. I told my friend that I was overwhelmed with some things with work, with my home life and with my health. They then responded, “we have to analyze life one day at a time". I immediately had this vision of holding many bags in my arms and then putting them down and refocusing on which ones I want or need to pick up again and which ones I could leave behind. I thanked my friend for holding space for me to discuss my feelings and what I was experiencing.
This experience got me thinking about my own mother and what behaviors were modeled to me while I was growing up. She worked very hard to care for me and my brothers and sisters. She would go to school or work, clean the home and help volunteer in the community. She was a very hard working woman. What I realized over time was that she was modeling martyrdom, however, and not motherhood. She was selfless to her own detriment. She was continuously coming from a place of sacrifice. She was burnt out all the time and had little time to spend with my siblings and I (for clarity, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am not blaming my mother but simply describing a situation).
After some reflection, I came to the conclusion that what both of these stories have in common are the need for boundary setting. These stories were the inspiration for my post for this week’s Self-Care Sunday on Boundaries and Burnout and your anti-racism journey.
I want to start out by defining boundaries. CounsellingRecover.com defines boundaries as “the limits you set for yourself to determine what you will or won’t participate in.” A further definition of a boundary is, “a limit that promotes integrity. In setting limits, “you protect your psychological and physical well being” (mediatebc.com). In order to prevent burnout we must learn to create boundaries. “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress; it occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands,” according to helpguide.org.
It's not only important to know the definition of what a boundary is, it's also important to know the different types of boundaries you are able to set in order to protect your time, energy and peace. By knowing the different types of boundaries, the easier it is to identify where you need to set a boundary with a person, whether it be with a family member, a friend, a co-worker or a boss. It is also very important to note that a boundary is not meant to be an electric fence but, instead, a way to hold space for yourself and the things that you are ok with being involved in. I found this quote by Silvy Khoucasian on Instagram that says, “Boundaries can create a space for continued connection. Walls block out the possibility of connection,” which helps to paint a clear picture of what we are trying to accomplish by setting a boundary, safe connections.
Types of Boundaries:
Spiritual Boundaries: Boundaries that allow you to practice rituals and respect and/or protect a personal belief system
Physical Boundaries: Boundaries around physical proximity (how close you want to allow others to be next to you), sexuality, and how much space you share with others (living arrangements, workplaces etc)
Financial Boundaries: Boundaries that will help you do what is best for your financial well being (i.e. Saving, budgeting, money management, paying bills)
Conversational Boundaries: Boundaries that involve topics you’re open to discussing and not discussing
Relationship Boundaries: Boundaries mutually agreed upon with your family, close friends and partners
Personal Boundaries: Boundaries you have in place with yourself based on awareness of your own unique needs
Content Boundaries: Boundaries on things you will and will not consume (or will have monitored consumption) on social media, TV, etc.
Time Boundaries: Boundaries that guide how much time you spend with someone, doing something, or time boundaries for work/and or volunteering
Now that we have discussed what a boundary is, it’s important to know how to set a boundary. I found a clearly laid out process by PositivePsychology.com and thought that I would share it.
Steps to take to initiate a boundary:
Define: Identify desired boundary
Communicate: Say what you need (rehearse what you plan to say ahead of time)
Stay Simple: Don’t over explain
Set Consequences: Set an action as a consequence and stick to it
I don’t know about you, but when I am learning a new strategy or coping tool, I like to ask for an example of the tool so that I can wrap my mind around it. I found a variety of examples from various sources online such as in "The Guide to Setting Healthy Boundaries". I would like to share these, and some personal gems, with you as well.
Examples of language used to state a boundary:
“I’m going to have to pass”
“I don’t want to say yes and then let you down”
“It’s just not right for me”
“I’d prefer not to”
“This just doesn’t speak to me”
When you start to integrate a new coping tool or strategy, it’s helpful to understand what the benefits are. You can find motivation to integrate these tools when you understand how they can positively impact your life.
Benefits of setting healthy boundaries:
1. Boundaries allow you to be your true self:
Feeling understood and accepted
2. Boundaries are a form of self-care:
Your needs are met
Time and energy to do the things that nourish and bring joy to your body, mind, soul and spirit
3. Boundaries create realistic expectations:
Taking responsibility for your own happiness
Not feeling responsible for someone else’s happiness
4. Boundaries create safety:
Improves communication with others
Reduces the amount of conflict in your relationships/friendships
Setting boundaries help you to be able to keep showing up to this very important anti-racism work without burning out. Your anti-racism journey is just that, a journey and not a sprint. In order to have a sustainable anti-racism journey, it’s essential to implement safe and effective boundaries. Setting a boundary on this journey can ensure that you do not experience burnout and quit altogether. An example of boundary setting on your anti-racism journey could be, “I will not engage in conversations when I am feeling angry or triggered, I will give myself time and space before re-engaging (emotional boundary)”, or “I want to attend this workshop but it will be the 3rd Zoom call I have been on today back to back, I need to take some time and space away from my computer (time boundary)”.
Initiating boundaries can have a positive impact on your life in many ways. I am so thankful that I have learned what boundaries are and how to implement them (this is still a work in progress). I want to be able to teach my children how important boundary setting is but I also know that it’s essential for me to model boundary setting and not just talk about it.
The last quote that I would like to leave you with is, “You are not responsible for how another person receives your boundaries. You are only responsible for setting them and communicating them with integrity. Get comfortable with knowing what is yours to take on and what isn’t” shared by Alyssa Mancao, LCSW @LiaMancao.
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