Like me, a lot of people spend time volunteering, helping others and end up giving too much of themselves, and I often get the question “How can I protect my boundaries?”
What I love about that question the most is that you already got to the fact that it’s
internal and has nothing to do with other people. You don’t think “Oh, those people out there that put demands on me”. You recognize that you made the choice. You want to make a difference. You’re so happy to make a difference. People come to you.
It’s awesome. But now you’re noticing that it’s starting to kind of eat away at you and it’s over the line. You are actually now giving more than you’re comfortable giving and now it’s a runaway train.
So, how do you really back down?
Sometimes it’s good to have these little hooks, like memes that you hang your hat on when you have a weakness or when you have something that you are prone to do, for example, you giving your time away for free.
One meme that I want to stick in your head and make it stick there forever is: always only give off your interest.
Not your capital. Give what’s easy for you to give of your overflow. It’s easy. Sometimes it’s no problem and we’re happy to help.
If you over give, now you’re giving off the principal and now you’re getting depleted.
So the trick now is to begin to know where that line is. This is how:
You have to put in stop locks. I’m talking about those locks we have in banks: if a bird flies into a bank
and it looks like somebody’s breaking in, the stop locks are these walls that come down like – Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom – all around the bird and only a higher manager can come and open the vault again. The point is that in some ways we have to put in security measures that we can’t weasel around, or we’ll end up giving too much of ourselves.
Track your time
If you look at the last few weeks, do you know when still felt good (to give?)
And then when it started not feeling good? When did it start to feel not fair? Two weeks ago? Three weeks ago?
Six months ago? See, it’s possible that those stop locks should have come down a long time ago. If you track your time for every new thing you get involved in, you will soon know beforehand how much you can give.
So let’s get back to the central question.
How do you protect your boundaries while feeling secure to do so? The truth is – to be crisp about this – you really would need to say, “Okay, either we have to move all the meetings to Fridays or I can only do half-day Friday.”
Given you do also Monday and Wednesday. That has integrity.
If you still don’t feel safe protecting your boundaries, ask yourself this:
Would you feel comfortable asking someone else to do free labour and take up their time when you can tell that they are struggling? Probably not. But you’re doing it yourself. So in here is a little zinger for you.
Ultimately it boils down to self-worth.
Let me tell you an anecdote. There was one time when I was asked by a large company (I’m just gonna say one of the Big Five) what rate was. And for some reason, I thought they were asking for this limited project price, like a small project. So I said eight thousand and they got quiet and then they went, “Okay. It’s a bit steep, but we can work with it.” And that’s when I realized they thought I said $8,000 – an hour!
And in a moment, I was like, “Wait a minute.” I actually was surprised – but they weren’t. What is that about, right? I really just billed myself out at $8,000/hour and they didn’t say “no”. They didn’t laugh, didn’t say “no”, they said “okay”.
Amazing things will happen once you start to realize your self-worth and protect your boundaries.