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As women, we often have trouble establishing and keeping boundaries, both at work and at home. Yet, not doing so exposes us to a lot of lost time and, often, to being used and exploited, which makes us feel stressed, which in turns makes us less productive, and very soon we're in a negative pit of overwhelm, stress and frustration.  

Jennifer (not her real name) had serious boundary issues both at work and in life. In particular, a client that was supposed to take no more than 20 hours of her week ended up asking for urgent tasks at all times of day, interrupting her and, in the end, getting much more time than they paid for. As a result, Jennifer was working a solid 60-hour week.  

One of the first things we did when we started working together was putting boundaries around this client: she would contact them and let them know that, due to her workload, she had to change the way she worked with them; from now on her time would be completely devoted to them between 9 and 1 every day, but that any task they sent after 1 pm would be fulfilled the next day.  

Jennifer was afraid that her client would be very unhappy with the change, but she was so desperate for a solution that she agreed to make the call. To her surprise (but not mine, because things usually go this way), her client immediately agreed and, after a few misses, respected her new boundaries. And Jennifer discovered that, with this new scheme in place, she worked better and faster (this change alone reduced her workweek by almost 10 hours) and her client respected her more than before.  

Jennifer, in her difficulty to establish boundaries with her client, is far from an exception. Most of us are guilty of it in one form or another. So where do you not establish boundaries, or, once establish, do you let people breach them over and over again? Is it because you feel you can't say no to your boss? Or you feel guilty to establish firm boundaries with your child, because you see him or her so little in the first place? Is it something else? How much is not establishing or having your boundaries respected really hurting you? My guess is that, just like Jennifer, it is costing you dearly in terms of stress, lack of time and feeling out of control. So start re-establishing your boundaries. If it feels strange, try with small things, before graduating to larger ones, such as occasionally saying no to your boss. You will find that your life suddenly gets much more peaceful and productive.  

Yours in Daily Mastery,
Karin



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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Feb 19, 2009
    • This is hard for me.  Clients are loyal to me and I love them as friends.  Though I know I suppose to have only a business relationship and it does not work for me.  I know my clients in and out, their daily struggles, their family, their ups and downs.  I spread myself to help them with non business issues.  I am going to stick to my character for it is “me“.  I do understand where you are coming from though.  Thank you for sharing.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Karin Vibe-Rheymer-Stewart, Ph.D. wrote Feb 19, 2009
    • Hi Chinadoll,

      Thank you so much for sharing this.  

      Completely get where you‘re coming from, I become friendly with a lot of my clients too; they know they can call/email whenever they need me, and I’ve always been there for genuine emergencies (including an emergency session on New Year’s Day this year!). This said,  I’ve learned - the hard way, I must admit - that I need to place some kind of boundary around them, or I eventually burn out. A lot of my clients have this issue too.  

      I admire you for being able to be there for the people around you 24/7, most people can’t.  

      Karin



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Feb 19, 2009
    • Thank you Karin.  I just try.  There are times I am exhausted for I feel like a caregiver to everyone.  However, when I run out of steam, I try to remember the following:

      Mother Teresa: Love till it hurts.
      St. Francis: In giving we are receiving.

      For some reasons, God graces me more with energy and desire.  In love and blessings.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Karin Vibe-Rheymer-Stewart, Ph.D. wrote Feb 19, 2009
    • You are welcome. And you are so advanced... What follows is a conversation I usually have with clients long into our work together:  

      We really are like batteries in giving: we cannot give more than we have... When we give out of obligation instead of love, for instance, it depletes us instead of recharging us, the way it did for Mother Theresa and St. Francis.  

      We are also like batteries is that we need to regularly recharge our own batteries (both physically and emotionally), or we run on empty - with about as much success as a car without fuel. I know many people who recharge their batteries by giving, such as my friend who sings for cancer patients in a local hospital.

      Putting boundaries around people and activities is really about making sure that we don’t let ourselves be depleted of our energy, and that we take time to, and do things that, recharge our batteries. We women are often guilty of forgetting the latter...

      Love,
      Karin



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Feb 19, 2009
    • Yes yes, most important is if we know how to recharge, otherwise, can’t give due to depletion or emptiness.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Inakika wrote Feb 20, 2009
    • This is a great article. I have also had issues with boundaries, for me it’s my sons. Yesterday, I decided to put my foot down with them on certain issues that they were getting over on me. Then I happened to read this. It only reinforces what I had already decided. Thank you for this, it’s great information that I will certainly use!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Feb 20, 2009
    • You know, after these few days have gone by, I am hearing you.  

      Even on this site, no offense to anyone, I feel burnt out too.  Too much blogging, viewing, laughing yet trying to give advise, lend a shoulder to cry, worry other problems, do sometimes deplete me.  You are right.  I do need to set boundaries.. even though I love it here.  xoxoxo



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Doreen XoXo wrote Feb 20, 2009
    • I have boundaries set....and no matter what, I will not let anyone or anything cross them.  That’s a promise to myself!!

      xoxo



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Feb 21, 2009
    • Karin: Please teach me how to set up boundaries here on Fab40 particularly?



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Karyn Olson wrote Feb 21, 2009
    • I believe if we are helping people it is in our nature to over step our boundaries...that is something I tend to do when dealing with family and friends...always trying to be the glue that fixes things....no matter what....
      This is something that I am working on and hopefully with time and putting to practice...I will be able to set my boundaries...



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Feb 21, 2009
    • I am going to re-establish my boundaries of not letting others talk me into eating the things I should not.  Or letting others sway me away from exercising. Example:  I plan on going to the gym after work but someone wants me to help them do something after work.  

      I have extended my boundaries at work. I have members that will only see me.  I have members calling me at home sometimes...just because they know me other than through my work....and some email me.  But...it doesn’t get out of line.  

      The eating and exercise is more of my problem.
      Great article though



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Onevision wrote Feb 21, 2009
    • Has anyone read the Boundaries books by, I think, McCloud? I have them downstairs I can go check the author if anyone is interested. They are excellent. I know someone mentioned them on this site already.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jacquie6363 wrote Feb 21, 2009
    • Oh Karin, how so at home this hits for me.  Just last week, I had to take a day off, because of my stress level at my job.  I was feeling completely inadequate and very very unproductive.  My excuse for stepping out of my boundaries was because it was for the good of the customers, when others stepped away from their responsibility, I picked up the slack and took care of it.  I have 5 other technicians who work alongside me, who have at least two people each underneath them.  When their auditors feel as though they are not getting the right answer from them, they send me an e-mail telling me that they don’t trust the answer they got can I help.

      So what do I do, I helped.  Therefore my duties got put on the back burner.  Last week, I had reached my final straw after I sent out an e-mail asking that everyone must follow protocol and very nicely put, leave me the hell alone.  I think they saw me as superwoman, because at the end of the day, I still got my work along with theirs done.  

      I was so drained day after day after day.  I had nothing left in me to give anymore.

      It’s ok to go above and beyond and let others overstep our boundaries but not at the expense of our own personal health.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Feb 21, 2009
    • I have the book Boundaries...I think I need to read it again.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Karin Vibe-Rheymer-Stewart, Ph.D. wrote Feb 22, 2009
    • Hi Chinadoll,

      The internet, especially when we are part of such warm communities as this one, is definitely one of those places where setting boundaries becomes difficult...  

      The easiest way I’ve found (both for myself and my clients) to set boundaries around my internet use (and Fab40) is to use a good old-fashioned timer: I set it up for the amount of time I’m willing to spend, and its ring reminds me that my time is up. It will probably help you too...  

      Love to all here,
      Karin



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Karin Vibe-Rheymer-Stewart, Ph.D. wrote Feb 22, 2009
    • Hi everyone!  

      Wow, this post really hit a nerve!  

      Would you guys like me to go more in depth in this topic? If yes, what kind of boundaries would you like me to explore more?  

      Big hug to all,
      Karin



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Feb 22, 2009
    • For me, how to deal with boundaries on online community like one here.  I love this site - it becomes part of me.  I dream about the gals here.  I feel their pain and daily struggles.  I rejoice when they have good news.  I laugh when it is light and humorous.  It is in my blood.  BUT....



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jenz ~ wrote Feb 22, 2009
    • Wow - it must be boundary day. haha

      You might be suprised at how much respect you might see as you set your boundaries & stick to them. happy Professionally and personally. I enjoy it and am confident about doing so now, where it used to accomodate a case of “the what-if’s.”



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Psalmist wrote Feb 22, 2009
    • I would really love to hear about how to set boundaries with friendships.  I don’t have too much trouble setting professional boundaries, and family boundaries have finally begun to be respected, but now the girlfriends are starting to encroach again and i need to know how to say enough is enough without losing the real friendships.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Feb 22, 2009
    • How about boundaries between employee and employer?  How should a loyal employee know where her boundary is as to not stop into the employer’s bus and administration side of the business?  Sometimes, I feel I step over to the boss side for being too protective and too loving.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Renee Robinson wrote Feb 28, 2009
    • How about setting up boundaries at work with taking on responsibilities you have to but also picking up parts that other people dropped.  And then looking like the loser when the project does not work because everyone didn’t do their part but you were left with the ball.  

      How about how do you deal with co-workers who look for you to fail or don’t like you because you have a good repoire with the students—nothing you’ve attempted to do but which happens because of the type of person you are.

      How about co-workers not liking you because you don’t seem to socialize by gossiping or office trivials.  You mainly keep you yourself but are genuine and friendly with everyone?

      Sorry about the tirade but just going through something at my place of employment......



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