When leaders I work with are overwhelmed or struggling with ‘too much to do and not enough time’ there is almost always an issue with lack of clear boundaries.
Sometimes they ‘assume’ that people will honour their boundaries when they’ve not been explicit about what those are (mind-reading is not a skill many of us possess).
How many times do you:
Agree to do something but inwardly seethe with resentment? (Pressing pause and taking time to think about something is your best strategy here).
Put everybody’s own needs before your own? You’re kind to everyone but yourself.
Take on responsibilities that are not yours to take on? (‘My team are busy, and I don’t want to burden them’). Leaving you working away on your laptop at stupid o’clock).
Think about what you ‘should’ do vs. what you truly want to do (the ‘dutiful’ son, daughter or student becomes the ‘dutiful worker-bee.’)
We often don’t hold tight boundaries because of:
✅ A belief that you SHOULD put others before yourself – always (I hear this a lot from women in particular).
✅ Fear of rejection (human beings fear rejection very strongly) – without our ‘tribe’ or ‘pack’ we can’t survive.
✅ Fear of being ‘selfish’ and the guilt – oh, the guilt!
✅ Fear of someone else’s reaction if you honour your own boundary (they might not like me/they might not think I’m a supportive leader) – people pleasing and a need for approval.
Did I miss any?
Of course, a lot of these beliefs and fears come from the early messages we got (explicitly or implicitly) when we were growing up.
We’ve never re-examined or questioned them as adults to see if they really fit with who we want to become.
The good news is that if you’ve lost control of your own boundaries you can get it back.
I’ll give you more tips on how to do that next time.