Message Six: Busting the myths of boundaries

I’m so pleased to be here with you again, one more time, for the final message* in this special series to help you stop your overwhelm. I’ve talked about how to eat that overwhelm watermelon one bite at a time, how to get curious so you can see what’s really going on, how to decide what you want to do instead of feeding the overwhelm, and how to know when setting a boundary will help you. You can see them all here if you missed any.

As I promised, today I’m going to bust some of the most common myths I hear about boundaries. Where do these come from? Well, like all myths, these are stories we tell that reinforce some beliefs in whatever culture we are surrounded by, like the Good Girl culture I grew up in and talked about in message five. In the case of boundaries, the belief that’s being kept alive is that the status quo is best, period, even if sticking with the status quo actually means you have to deny your own needs.

And I need to get uncomfortably real with you for a minute: all myths need to rely a little on the power of fear to work effectively. Especially fear of change, fear of being punished, or fear that the people in our lives will reject us if we speak up. Making you feel afraid is one of the ways your primitive brain does its job of keeping you alive and wow, it’s a powerful driver. Honestly, fear really is helpful when it means you can run away from a tiger, but it’s not so helpful when it causes you to run away from a conversation you need to have with someone. So yes, because you are a normal human, fear is one of the things you’re up against when it comes to setting boundaries.

Keep in mind as you read through this that my workshop called “Boundaries & Holidays” starts on October 19. If you would like to go a little deeper and get some individual help and coaching from me, this will be a great and inexpensive way to dip your toes in.**

Myth: If I communicate a boundary to someone, I will come across as angry. Reality: Boundaries can be communicated from a place of great love and thoughtful consideration for yourself and others, which may help you get your message across quickly and clearly. Please remember that all emotions are valid, even anger. As you gain confidence with boundaries and grow in self-awareness, it is very possible that you will be able to express anger in healthy ways.

Myth: Setting boundaries will make me feel too guilty. Reality: What if the goal is not to stop feeling guilt entirely, but to grow so that guilt doesn’t control your life any more? Guilt can be beastly to feel, but the truth is it’s just an emotion like any other emotion. This comes up so often in my practice as a life coach that I did two podcast episodes, 49 and 50, on this very topic.

Myth: Boundaries are not polite. Reality: Boundaries and politeness or courtesy are entirely separate things. It’s a major injustice that we tend to believe it’s okay for someone to violate our boundaries, but that it’s not okay or polite to tell them to stop violating our wishes, thoughts, feelings and bodies! Listen to episode 49 of the podcast to hear me bust this myth.

Myth: I will always feel bad when I communicate a boundary. Reality: In my experience, once you get past the “newness” of boundaries, it does get easier. It’s one of the reasons I used the word “skills” so often throughout this series. Practicing boundaries really is a set of skills, but it seems so scary that for most of us, it takes some reminding to convince our brains it’s possible to learn them.

Myth: I will hurt people’s feelings when I set and communicate a boundary. Reality: No, this is not true. Nobody can control the way another person feels. You can’t hurt somebody else’s feelings, and nobody can hurt your feelings. Feelings just don’t work that way, despite what we’ve been told since we were toddlers. I know that’s incredibly hard to believe but it’s true. Listen to podcast episode 40 if you want to learn more about this.

Myth: If I set boundaries, I will be acting selfishly. Reality: Boundaries are actually the very best kind of self-care. Every human deserves boundaries and is worthy of boundaries. Every. Human. Everywhere. Many people have a lot of trouble believing this could be true and if you’re struggling with this idea, it would be an excellent issue to raise with a therapist, life coach or support group.

Myth: I don’t think I can ever set a boundary with (insert name of person here). Reality: You don’t have to rush into anything and you don’t have to start setting boundaries with the most difficult relationships in your life. As you build knowledge and skills, and as you practice, you’ll build courage too. The key is to get the help you need to start working on the skills, one step at a time.

If there’s something else you’d like to know that I didn’t cover here about the myths and common beliefs around boundaries, please leave a comment below or send me an email.

Before I close, I want you to know that I’ve designed my “Boundaries & Holidays” online workshop to be a place where it’s safe to say whatever is on your mind. There are way too many things about boundaries and holidays that are considered taboo and so we tend to be afraid of bringing them up (see, there’s that normal human fear showing up again). But I don’t believe anything is off limits to talk about. Once you’re registered for the 4-week workshop, you can ask questions in the private community, but if you’ve got something on your mind that you think is too sensitive for the group, you can also ask me for help.

You can join the workshop even if you’re not ready to set boundaries yet! The sooner you start learning and practicing in a safe environment, the sooner you’ll be able to begin applying the skills in your life. When you join the workshop, you’ll also get lifetime access to the lessons and to the community. So you can ultimately get relief from those stressful holiday situations, whenever you are ready! As I’ve said a few times in this series, there is no rush. I’m serious about creating a learning environment that is emotionally and intellectually safe; in fact, I designed my whole business around facilitating personal growth in a way that’s as safe as you need it to be.

Remember to register by this Friday, October 15, to get the ridiculously low registration fee of $29. If you have any questions, send me a message or leave a comment here.

Here’s to practicing all the skills we need to stop overwhelm whenever it comes back! It’s been a privilege being here with you,


Kay Coughlin, CEO and Life & Business Coach, and mother, wife and caregiver

*If you want to receive encouraging messages about overwhelm and boundaries, opt in here.

** If you are reading this after the workshop starts, you can still join my free community to talk about boundaries and you’ll also get notifications whenever I offer workshops in the future.

*** Prefer to listen to this message? You can do that here.

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Kay Coughlin, CEO of Facilitator On Fire, is a business coach for the non-profit sector and social justice businesses. She is also well-known for being an advocate for family caregivers.

In every forum she can find, she shouts that it's OK for every human to earn a living, set and enforce boundaries around their bodies, thoughts, feelings and actions. You can join Kay's free, private online community to talk about boundaries here.

Kay also teaches about emotional labor, how to rest, and Human Giver Syndrome, and is the host of the "From One Caregiver to Another" podcast and author of "From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind."

Kay is well-known for her public speaking on boundaries and self-care. 

Facilitator on Fire is a subsidiary of Donor Relations Mindset LLC, which Kay founded in 2015. She lives with her husband and children in central Ohio, and is the primary caregiver for her own mother, who lives right next door. Kay can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Copyright 2024. All rights reserved, Julia Kay Coughlin and Facilitator On Fire.

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