Maintaining Boundaries for Self esteem
It is very important to maintain personal boundaries in a professional setup. The word “boundary” is well understood when paired with proper communication.
Studies show that women more than men, find it hard to set boundaries at work and at home. What do I mean when I say boundaries? These are acceptable behaviors from those around us, in our presence. For example a person might accept some amount of fun and teasing but then, when it gets personal he puts his feet down.
So what happens when there are no boundaries set? We become unaware of what is an acceptable behavior towards us. I remember a scene from the Hindi movie” Sui dhaga”. The protagonist tolerates all kinds of misbehavior from his employer’s son until his wife subtly points it out. It is after this, that he puts a fight against what he feels is crossing the line.
Boundaries are almost non-existent in our homes, in India. Women home makers, coming for sessions, complain of not being appreciated. They feel that their sacrifices are not recognized. The patterns I commonly see are
- Home makers assume that if they sacrificed their needs, their family would be in a better situation.
- They sacrifice their desires to compensate their spouse’s monetary contribution.
- They are disillusioned that only money is a worthy contribution in a family.
The consequence of all this is that there is more expectation and hardly any appreciation.
How does one decide on their boundaries? Boundaries are based on our upbringing, culture, values and mostly life experiences. Put on your thinking hat and decide what would the mostly acceptable behavior in a given situation. Mentally make a list of few attributes or behaviors that you would definitely not appreciate or feel offended. These would be your boundaries for a particular situation.
Boundaries change according to the place, situation and people involved. For example, you may not like people commenting on your lifestyle in an office environment, but you may however, have a healthy conversation regarding the same topic, someplace else.
Boundaries change along with our perceptions and encounters. Based on our experiences, our ideologies and tolerances change, which affects our boundaries.
Boundaries displays our unique identities and personalities in a very positive way. It helps each one of us to be sensitive and conscious of one another. Well established boundaries at work places help individuals feel respected, valued and a great sense of professional fulfilment. All employees must be encouraged to share their ideas regarding boundaries vocally, from time to time. This creates an awareness of the diversity that exists in a work place.
A friend of mine did not like if someone stood very close to her or gave a friendly pat, without her consent at her workplace. She had communicated it very clearly to her co-workers. It was well received and appreciated at her work place.
Setting up boundaries is a very important part of self-esteem and self-awareness. According to Maslow’s theory of Hierarchy — Self-esteem is the fourth layer in the five tiered model of human motivation. Esteem is borne out of our desire for social acceptance and status. Establishing and communicating our boundaries, helps us define and even control, how we wish to be treated. These then help us handle people and situations, assertively and with courage. This in turn contributes to our self-esteem.
People with low self-esteem often go out of their way to say or do things that they don’t want to. They end up feeling frustrated or unhappy as no one recognizes their worth. An unofficial term used for this is “people pleaser”. The other end of the spectrum involves people, who are very rigid and unreasonable with their boundaries. They are labelled “uptight and snobbish”.
Boundaries are meant to be communicated clearly without sounding overbearing at workplaces. The first thumb of rule is to start small but being firm at the same time. This gives our co-workers a basic idea of ourselves and our upbringing.
Pushback’s and violations of boundaries happen at workplaces. Resolving these, require HR intervention.
How does respecting boundaries help organizations? It helps maintain harmony, tolerance and working relationships between employees. The result is an increased productivity and efficiency due to less friction and better understanding among employees.
A beautiful quote I recently came across said “I have created boundaries, not to offend you or to push you away. I have them to respect myself and live harmoniously with you all.”