Owning your own business can be a challenge because you don’t have set working hours. You could work all the time if you let yourself. Being your own boss is particularly hard if you struggle with setting or keeping boundaries. It’s easy to talk yourself into working past a certain time or to schedule a work appointment when you’ve set aside the time for personal, leisure or self-care. Who’s going to stop you?
Setting Boundaries Sparks Anxiety
The other thing about fuzzy boundaries is that the people in your life come to expect that you will meet their needs when they ask. They might not intend to take advantage of you, but if you’re always willing to do what others ask of you and never say “no,” then the people in your life will become used to having their needs met first and foremost.
Creating and maintaining boundaries isn’t just hard when you own your business. Saying “no” can be extremely hard for a lot of people. But problems arise when you don’t say “no” enough. Not meeting your own needs can breed resentment, feeling taken advantage of and feeling underappreciated.
When you start setting boundaries, it can be hard on relationships, too. Listening for and meeting your needs can change relationship dynamics. If the people in your life are used to you always doing for them, it will be an adjustment when you begin to speak up for what you want and need. It might even lead to some hurt and angry feelings, because they don’t understand why you’re not doing what they want. And that’s really hard! Not too many people like conflict, but people who have trouble with maintaining strong, healthy boundaries usually hate conflict. They avoid it by putting their needs last.
Learning To Listen To What You Need
It takes time and practice to really hear what it is that you want and need. You can start by being aware of your resentment, anger, anxious or hurt feelings bubbling up when you agree to do something. Then you can ask yourself these three questions:
- “I’m feeling some resentment right now. Did I agree to do this to because I wanted to or because someone else wanted me to?”
- “What was it that made me agree to this? Did I want to make others happy? Was I trying to avoid conflict? What was my motivation for agreeing?”
- “What does my anger, hurt, anxiety or resentment want me to know?”
Try to be curious without judging yourself. Having some self-compassion can include reminding yourself that the part of you that wants to please others or avoid conflict is trying to protect you. It believes that by always meeting other’s needs you will avoid feeling uncomfortable.
Clarity Helps Avoid Conflict
So how can you meet your own needs and not create a world of conflict?
The answer is, you can’t avoid conflict! It will take some time for the people in your life to get used to you doing things differently. Until they do, they might be confused or angry. But, if you keep doing things the same way, all of the conflict will be alive inside you. You’ll be frustrating the parts of you that want you to see and hear that you have needs, too. Holding the conflict inside can make you feel anxious or depressed.
You can help the people in your life better understand the changes in your behavior. It takes being open and honest about doing things differently and communicating your needs without judging others for wanting you to stay the way you were.
If you’re struggling to know what you need, or want help with creating and maintaining boundaries, therapy can help by providing a safe space to explore and get support.
Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger, host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979.