I joined a competitive ping pong league this spring. Great decision. I’m working to keep the ball in the playing field! I’m shifting from a lifetime of a big court and big swings as a competitive tennis player. The field of play has shrunk, significantly. There are new boundaries in which I must operate. Last night I was struck by the realization that playing fields are a metaphor for boundary setting. Playing fields provide a boundary to how we operate making boundaries explicitly known. And, different playing fields hold different boundaries; mimicking the different relationships we have in our lives and the different boundaries that we set.
Boundary setting comes into importance consistently in my leadership coaching, and leadership development work. Boundary setting is you letting others know what rules or limits or needs must be honored in the relationship, and how you will respond if they are not.
Boundary setting is essential. And, by nature, I’m not good at it. I don’t think many of us are really; we just deal with the discomfort of not wanting to set boundaries in different ways. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings so we avoid stating what’s needed. We are afraid of losing connection so we do whatever pleases the other to get by. We become uncomfortable in the situation so we burst with anger, or pick arguments unintentionally in other areas. The strategies are complex and abundant. I love what Brené Brown says about boundaries
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.“
Boundary setting is essential in relationships whether work or personal. Boundary setting is courageous. Boundary setting is trusting. Boundary setting is vulnerability in action. Boundary setting empowers accountability, trust, and connection. Boundary setting is love.
And, boundary setting is a learned skill.
First, we must notice what is stopping us from setting the boundary. What are our patterns? Where are we feeling uncomfortable and powerless? Where are feeling exhausted and disconnected. Then we must choose something different, we must communicate what we need and what is required in a situation or relationship. We must set the playing field so to speak. What are the rules? What is out of bounds? What will happen if we break a rule or go out of bounds? Boundary setting empowers us to be connected, on a level playing field.
The metaphor of playing fields as boundaries in my life is that my personality by nature wants to expand. I want to see everywhere and meet everyone. I’m the possibilities girl. I love life and the people in it in a very big, out in the world socially engaged way. And, in my world, there are not inherent or explicit boundaries. Everyone I meet starts as my friend. Every invitation I get is a possibility. The impact can be overwhelming. Without boundaries, the impact IS overwhelming.
In order to love myself and stay healthy, I’ve learned to set boundaries. Sometimes I notice the overwhelm while I’m in the playing field of boundaries I’ve created for myself and am able to reaffirm or set a boundary in the moment. Sometimes, the overwhelm occurs in the in between times that I reflect on and notice that I’m feeling exhausted or drained. And, then I have the difficult task of going back to people or commitments and setting a boundary.
Ping pong is helping me prioritize with boundaries. I’m learning that even though the playing field is smaller than tennis, or another sport I love, soccer, the event is still meaningful and enjoyable.
I’m working to keep the ball on the table. I’m working on putting boundaries around a smaller playing field in my life. I’m working to ensure that I’m out of that place of overwhelm and in a place of trust and connection.
Where in your life do you need to set boundaries?
If you need help with boundary setting in your life, I’d love to talk with you about coaching, or you can find a helping professional at The Daring Way where certified professionals like myself are empowering others to live braver lives.