I recently led a very special and intimate day of masterminding with some incredible entrepreneurs. These women were not strangers to self-development and evolution, and are also seasoned business owners.
In our day together, each participant went really deep to look at the underlying causes and obstacles to creating the business she wants. There was a common theme that revealed itself in each woman’s presentation: the experience of having “loose boundaries” and, as a result, consistently taking responsibility for other peoples’ actions, feelings, and thoughts.
I want to look closely at this with you because the act of not upholding your boundaries, and then taking “over-responsibility” for others is one that will sabotage you over and over again, in your business and in your life.
When I talk about unhealthy boundaries or not holding to your boundaries, here is what I mean: Anytime you do something or give permission for something to be done to you that violates your time, your value, or your freedom in any way, you are experiencing unhealthy boundaries.
It means saying yes when you really want to say NO, or being able to say no, but feeling guilty and pretty awful about the NO. Or saying NO and being scared that you’re going to be perceived as a (I’m going to use a word that I hate here now) – “Bitch”.
Unhealthy boundaries often take the form in one way or another of OVERgiving. Overgiving means giving more than you actually want to give or what’s aligned for you to give. Now, just to be clear: I am a HUGE fan of giving, and giving a LOT. I really enjoy being generous in nearly every area of my life. But there is a difference between aligned generosity and then giving more than you want or more than is appropriate.
Now, unhealthy boundaries can take many different forms, including working way more hours than you wanted to, giving clients extra session time even though you don’t want to, charging less than you know you’re worth, letting a team member show up 5 minutes late to team meetings repeatedly even though it upsets you, not wanting to rock the boat with your husband so you never ask for time to yourself, not telling your babysitter that watching MTV with your 4 year old is unacceptable because you don’t want to hurt her feelings, not charging clients when they simply don’t show up for session times, or charging clients when they don’t show up for session times, but being scared that you’ve offended them in some way, traveling for your work instead of asking clients to travel to you, and on and on.
And this is what happens when you have unhealthy boundaries – you often end up feeling either overworked, or resentful, or like a victim who has no control.
When you aren’t able to set boundaries and then honor them, you often feel like you’re either struggling to stay afloat, or you’re deeply disappointed with the amount of income you’re making, or you feel like everyone just wants to take from you, suck the life force out of you. Or, you get really angry – you get angry at your clients or your boss for taking up too much of your time, or you get angry at your team members or colleagues for not contributing enough or you get angry at your parents or your spouse for needing you too much. And we don’t want any of these things, right?
Now, when you’re able to set healthy, aligned, solid boundaries for yourself, things look very different: you are much more able to stick to a schedule that works for you, you are much more able to ask to get paid what you’re worth and receive it, you are much more able to make graceful and confident requests to get the support you need, you are much more able to give back any of the responsibility that you’ve been trying to hold for others.
If you are someone who is skilled at OVER-giving, chances are you are also someone who pretty consistently takes OVER-responsibility for other people in your life.
Taking over-responsibility means you don’t think your partner will really be able to take care of the kids or take care of them well, so you cut your work or social time short to be at home. Taking over-responsibility means that you don’t know if your clients will do the work you assigned them to do, so you spend lots of time on email and check in on them over and over again so that you, quote end quote, make sure they are moving ahead. Taking over-responsibility means that you undercharge for your services because you don’t trust that your prospects will value themselves enough to make a higher financial commitment. Actually, if you look at over-giving in this way, it kinda looks like over-giving and over-responsibility have quite a bit to do with needing to be in control because you don’t trust in other people to take care of things or get things done or take responsibility for themselves.
If you recognize the tendency to taking over-responsibility for others in your life, I want you to really consider what I’m going to say next, really take it in – By taking over-responsibility for others, you are actually NOT helping others out. On the outset, you might THINK you are, but truly, if you try to play GOD and take on the responsibility that others should be taking for themselves, you are robbing them of the opportunity to step up to the plate, to develop themselves, and to feel good about having and holding responsibility. So, for a moment, consider how you might have always thought that your over-giving is serving others. And note for yourself how that actually isn’t true.
So, if you’re seeing that taking over-responsibility is a dynamic that’s happening in your life, here’s a next step for you:
Make a list of all the places in your business/life where you take over-responsibility. Be really honest with yourself here. Get clear so you can see it in black and white.
From there, there are both inner and outer work required to begin eliminating items off your list. The inner work is related to learning how to give up the control, and the outer work is about coming up with systems for handing the responsibility back over to those who own it.