How To Set Boundaries
Sep 05, 2022
Do people dump their emotional baggage on you? I used to be that person that everyone would bring all their problems to. They would dump and feel better, while I was left holding all their emotional baggage. I felt honored that they trusted me enough to share with me. It also made me feel wanted and needed. Yet, it was also soooo exhausting!
What if you could learn how to set boundaries so that people stopped dumping their emotional baggage on you? I had heard about setting boundaries, but I had no idea how to do it. I had all these thoughts about it. What if they got mad at me? What if they thought I didn’t care? Did it make me a mean person? I still wanted to feel needed, so it felt kind of impossible to really do the whole setting boundaries thing and still be that person who was there for everyone.
With the guidance of a coach, I learned I could have and set boundaries. It took practice, and to be completely honest, it was uncomfortable at first. It took practice to set new boundaries, especially with my loved ones. I first had to figure out what I wanted my boundaries to be. I was so used to just being there for everyone, I didn’t know anything else. What would my life look like if I had the opportunity to set some boundaries? The first thing that came to mind, I wouldn’t be so exhausted!
One of the first times I set a new boundary, it was with my mom. She was the easiest person to practice with, because she knew I had a coach. I told her that from now on, she had 5 minutes to complain, and then we had to change the subject. I literally would set a timer and say “Okay, times up”. From there I would ask her to tell me something amazing about her day. It took practice, but eventually our phone calls were more about all the amazing and fun things going on in our lives. It felt so much better to have these kinds of conversations than the kind we used to have.
Here are 4 tips to start small with setting new boundaries:
Tip #1 - Don’t answer your phone or respond to text messages immediately! If you’re like how I was in the past, you drop everything to answer your phone or respond to a text message. I practiced setting boundaries by looking at who was calling and deciding if I wanted to talk to them right that moment. The only exception I had to this at first is if it was one of my boys. They had the habit of texting versus calling, so if they were calling, it usually meant they needed me. If I didn’t feel like talking at that moment, I didn’t answer and would either call them later, or they would call another time. You can do that too.
TIp #2 - Tell those in your life who tend to dump all their emotional baggage on you that you are only going to give them 5 minutes to complain (or as we call it, dump) and then they have to tell you something amazing. If you want to give them 10 minutes, do that, whatever time limit you want to set, just make it as short as possible that feels good to you. I can hear the question, because I had the same one. What if they go over the time limit? That’s where you get to practice setting the boundary.
Tip #3 - Stop agreeing and giving advice. When people are dumping their emotional garbage on you, you probably agree with what they are saying or offer advice. For example, maybe they say their spouse is being selfish. Your response is to agree, because that’s what we do, we agree to make them feel better, or they ask and we give advice on what we think they should do. Stop agreeing with them, stop giving advice. I know, you’re asking, well, then what do I do? Just listen. If they ask you a question, turn that question back to them.
Tip #4 - Practice saying no. Don’t say yes, unless you want to. As someone who wants to feel wanted and needed, if someone asks you to do something, without even thinking about it you’ll probably say yes. Instead, take a pause. If you don’t know if you want to do it, tell them I’ll have to get back to you. Give yourself the space to choose whether or not it’s something YOU actually want to do. Then give them your answer.
Setting boundaries starts with a choice. The one where you decide that you want to stop people from dumping all their emotional baggage on you. Now that I know how to set boundaries, I have better relationships and I’m not emotionally exhausted anymore. I learned along the way that I’m still wanted and needed, yet in a healthier way for all involved. Setting boundaries now feels really good. They honor me and my relationships with others. My conversations are more positive and fun. My relationships are more positive and fun. I enjoy all the things I say yes to, and honor what my no’s are. You can too!
I’d love for you to hear my journey, about setting boundaries and so much more! You can listen to my Year of Growth Interviews here... Kimberly Year of Growth Interviews