We all have those unsupportive people in our lives...that, well, you’re just stuck with (maybe).
An unsupportive parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, friend, or roommate can be the difference between seeing success or seeing failure.
And it sucks!! 100% it sucks...because it’s someone else calling the shots. You have less control over the situation...and honestly, it’s up to them whether they want to listen or not to make your life go a lot smoother.
And if you are struggling with this, you likely know that it’s pretty hard to change people.
Even worse, IF you’re a people pleaser—which SO many of us are—you are even more susceptible to the guilt trips and manipulations and feel even more emotions at boundary violations and hurtful comments and behaviors.
What do you do? Do you cut the toxicity out of your life? Maybe!
But sometimes, it’s just not that easy.
If it’s a friend or someone you have the ability to remove from your life, sure. But what if it’s your husband? Or your mom? Or your sibling? Those people are likely going to be in your life no matter what, so you can’t just cut them out.
Instead, YOU have to change your reactions and set boundaries...which is the uncomfortable (at first) but eventually empowering truth.
Eventually it comes down to YOU.
YOU control your reactions. YOU set the boundaries and hold people to them. YOU decide what is going to affect you and what is going to slide right off your shoulders. YOU control the impact and pull others have in your life.
AND it matters. Having a support system is crucial to literally everything. Feeling like you have someone in your corner to support you, stand by you, respect you, and honor you helps you stay motivated and disciplined. It helps you see body composition changes faster. It helps you stay healthy and happy. It matters... SO much. You hear stories all the time—it’s even a HUGE part of my own personal success story—of people removing toxicity and seeing drastic changes in their lives.
This blog will help you navigate the really tough world of boundaries with those people in your life not giving you the support you need. This blog will help you not only SET boundaries, but also how to recognize if you need them, how to maintain them, and why they’re so important.
PART I. DO YOU NEED TO SET BOUNDARIES?
Here are some classic signs of a lack of boundaries:
You feel drained and tired often.
You say “YES” when you want to say “NO”.
You feel guilty when you make yourself a priority: physically, financially (do you feel shame and guilt when you invest $$ in a product or service to improve your health?)
You sacrifice your comfort for others. You’d rather get less sleep and take less time for yourself to make sure others have dinner on the table, a clean house, etc.
You sacrifice your sanity. You find yourself angry, mentally foggy, hangry, etc. often.
Some relationships feel one-sided. Are you the one always reaching out, initiating plans, offering support and comfort, etc.?
You fear what others think of you—especially making your health, aesthetics or fitness a priority. Are you afraid to order a salad at a restaurant out of fear of being mocked or for choosing to go to the gym Saturday morning over a hangover?
You put your needs and wants to the side. You want to go to the gym, but you stay at work longer or go home to cook dinner.
A friend or family member verbally mocks or shames you, your choices, your goals, your body type, etc.
A friend or family member goes out of their way to make things harder. Your spouse intentionally gets pizza for dinner. A family member intentionally shows up with dessert. Most often, this is done AFTER attempting to set boundaries.
There honestly could be a ton more. These are just SOME of the boundary violations I’ve seen—personally, professionally with clients, in Facebook fitness/nutrition pages, and from DMs and personal messages from strangers!
If you feel ANY of these, you need to keep reading because you’ve got some boundaries to create.
PART II. WHY ARE BOUNDARIES SO IMPORTANT
Boundaries are important for so many reasons. Boundaries define your personal limits.
The first reason is stress. Failure to set boundaries often comes at a physical toll to you. You’re likely overworking yourself to make everything work....which is a stressor. We know the damage stress creates on your body.
Failure to set boundaries stalls progress. Not only because of the stress, but because many times the lack of boundaries puts you in situations where you have to deviate and go off track. Lack of boundaries includes skipping the gym or a workout, sacrificing your sleep, and making unproductive food choices consistently...all things that are going to make it harder to see results.
A support system provides so many benefits. Having people in your corner to cheer you on feels good. It helps create that identity you’re craving. If you want to live a healthier life and be the person who eats healthily and goes to the gym every day, but your network is a bunch of partiers who encourage you to ditch the gym, drink copiously, eat garbage and have late nights, every day is going to feel like a battle. You’ll feel guilty ditching them for your health progress...but you’ll feel equally guilty ditching your health to spend time with them.
PART III. SETTING BOUNDARIES
So now you’ve realized you need to set boundaries. Let’s talk about how to do that.
Step 1. The What
The first thing to ask yourself is “what do you want??” Channel your inner Ryan Gosling in The Notebook and ask yourself what you want!
What is your vision? If everyone listened to you, what boundaries would you have established?
What are things you love saying ‘yes’ to? What are things you say ‘yes’ to that you wish you could say ‘no’? What are things you’re okay saying ‘no’ to?
Step 2. The Who
Next, who is causing the most problems? Who do you need to create boundaries with? Is it family? Friends? How much do you value them? What specifically is causing them to bring you stress?
Step 3. Communication
You want to communicate with whom you’re creating boundaries. You want to be assertive and direct, but kind. You want to remove as much emotion and leave those at the door when having these conversations. You want as little confusion as possible. Have you ever had a conversation where you thought your point was made....but when you thought back you realized you were never straightforward?
You do this with “I statements” following the basic structure of “I feel & I need.”
“I feel ______________ when ___________________ because _____________________________. I need ___________________________________”
Ineffective statements to create boundaries:
- You never give me space!
- You don’t support me and you want me to fail!
- You think I’m fat [or a failure]. (I see both)
- IF you want to workout, do it and quit bothering me! You’re annoying me.
Effective statements to create boundaries
- I feel overwhelmed and trapped when you do everything with me because I like my free time. What I need is to create time for myself once a week to unwind, listen to music, and catch my breath.
- I feel hurt when you write off my successes and only talk about my failures because I’ve done a lot to be proud of. I need you to support me and only offer constructive help. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it.
- I feel embarrassed and ashamed when you make comments about my body because I’m really trying to work on my self-talk and love the body I’m given. I need you to refrain from making comments that aren’t positive about my body.
- I feel guilty when you comment on me choosing to go to the gym (or exercise) because it makes me feel like I have to choose between my family or my health. What I need is you to either join me at the gym or leave the comments to yourself.
Other factors to consider when communicating:
Communicate in your time and in the medium YOU feel comfortable with. Texting and other non-face to face means of communication allow people to hide behind hurtful words BUT if that’s where YOU feel most comfortable communicating with that person, start there.
Remove distractions whether you’re in person or not in person.
If you’re anti-confrontation, remind yourself that this is merely a conversation. It’s only confrontation if you go into it with the intention of creating a conflict. If you’re stressed over these conversations, write them down and read them aloud!
Step 4. Take Action
Once you’ve got the conversation and communication down, it’s time to take action. Decide how and when you’d like these conversations. Schedule them and create time in your schedule for them to happen.
Define these boundaries not only for the people they’re for...but also for yourself.
Be okay with saying “no” and creating space for YOURSELF.
It’s okay to practice!!
Practice with friends you trust and respect. Find people in your life who will be honest with you AND ALREADY RESPECT YOUR BOUNDARIES. Have these tough conversations with them. Get used to speaking with assertiveness and confidence so you can remove [as much] emotion as possible. I have a couple friends along with my sister that I regularly have these conversations with because I feel comfortable with them and I respect their honesty.
PART IV. MAINTAINING BOUNDARIES
The most important piece of this puzzle is that after you set the boundaries... YOU HONOR THEM.
If someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, the first thing to do is bring their awareness to it. Gently remind them or point it out. There’s a huge chance they’re unaware that they’re actions are bringing you discomfort. There may not be any malicious intent to it. If they love you and support you, they want to be their best self for you!
I’ll share a recent story to prove this. One of my good friends is smaller and thinner than I am. I have always been much thicker, especially in my legs and butt, pretty much as long as I can remember. We both had two different narratives in our heads that we’d never discussed. SHE envied my size, specifically my legs, because she’s always grown up as the small one. I, on the other hand, grew up being made fun of or mocked for my awesome legs and therefore envied hers. Thiccc didn’t come about as being desirable really until the last few years. One time, I commented on her small legs (what I thought was a compliment), and she interpreted as me mocking and reminding her of her insecurities and vice versa when she said the opposite about my legs. We both care for each other deeply and after the conversation SETTING those boundaries, we were aware of our differences and were able to move forward honoring each other’s boundaries.
Some people might have malicious intent. Your family member mocking your healthy choices may not quit. Every time a comment is made, just remind them with simple words. “That’s hurtful to me.” “I don’t find this conversation productive for my sanity”. “Remember our conversation? This is an example.” Remove emotion and just state the facts. The point isn’t to change them...just to make them aware. You gain some of the control back and enforce your boundary.
The second thing is to NOT change your routine or schedule. If you have plans to meet after you go to the gym at 7pm and they get off work early or want you to skip the gym, don’t. Say NO. Honor your schedule and your routine. Again, you don’t have to offer an explanation. “I’ll see you at 7!” or “Sounds great! I’m going to hit the gym and meet you after like we planned.” Or simply “No, thanks.”
When you start feeling emotions or guilt or shame or feelings of being upset, take 5 long deep breaths. Repeat a mantra (below) and hold true to your boundaries. Remember this is a long game...just like your nutrition. Some days you don’t want to eat a vegetable...but you know it will play out long term. Same goes with boundaries. Give yourself a moment of discomfort now for a lifetime of respect and fulfillment.
Most importantly, this stuff takes practice. It’s not a one size fits all approach. It’s also hard. The more toxic a person, the more they’re going to try and bring you down with them. If you receive kickback, view it as proof that the boundaries you put in place were needed!
Which brings me to the last part!
PART V. DO YOUR PART MENTALLY
Here are some resources to help you do your part. It’s a whole-team effort. You can set the boundaries and hold people to them...but if you don’t do the work internally to accept them and honor yourself, those boundaries will only last temporarily.
Repeat mantras daily. Read books and articles. Follow productive social media accounts that will bombard your brain DAILY and REGULARLY on the practice of creating boundaries. Quit following the toxic influencer fake posing to have a bigger butt and smaller waist who is bringing you down (THAT IS A BOUNDARY TO SET) and follow accounts that actually provide a benefit.
This year is for ME
I honor myself for my space and sanctitude
I respect my space and peace
I choose discomfort over resentment
If it’s not a hell yeah, it’s a hell no (@Derek Sivers)
“NO” is a complete sentence.
I am not responsible for the happiness or comfort of others.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
Loving What Is by Byron Katie
"Setting Boundaries at Work" (not a book, I know)
Social media resources:
Happy boundary setting!!
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.
Recipe & Macro Guide here.