Setting boundaries means being kind to yourself

Author Paulo Coelho is out with his latest book ‘Maktub’ (Maktub means “it is written” in Arabic). The Arthur Rubinstein (one of the greatest pianist of all time) story in it caught my eye.

The story goes thus –

The pianist Arthur Rubinstein was late for lunch at a classy New York restaurant. His friends began to get worried, but finally Rubinstein appeared.

Although known for his stinginess, that afternoon he ordered the most expensive dishes and the rarest and most sophisticated wines. At the end, he paid the bill with a smile on his lips.

“I know you must be puzzled,” said Rubinstein, “but today I went to see my lawyer to draw up my will. I left a nice fat sum to my daughter and to my relatives. I made a generous donation to various charities, and then suddenly, I realised that I wasn’t included in my will. All the money was going to other people!

I decided that, from now, I would be more generous with myself.”

This generosity with oneself, being kind and compassionate to oneself – how many of us really practice it?

It calls for us to set boundaries wherein we can be fully who we are and/or want to be and not be defined by expectations of others. Both, at work as well as at a personal level.

Setting boundaries means being able to say ‘no’ when it is needed. It means giving priority to self-care. It means understanding one’s strengths and at the same time being aware of one’s limitations. It is about focusing on what one can control and letting go of what one cannot. It is all about respecting oneself and accepting oneself the way one is.

Maintaining boundaries at work

How many of us have stayed back at work to finish that assignment as though our lives depended on it? Do you remember when you were not able to say ‘no’ to more work?

Communicators and public relations consultancy colleagues are always inundated with work. Even before finishing a project, there is something urgent that comes up that demands immediate attention. And we get sucked up in trying to juggle multiple projects.

Maintaining work life balance calls for setting boundaries and clear expectations. It signals clarity and prioritisation of what is important for you. Yet, many of us do not find it easy to do this. We fear retribution for not completing our tasks on time.

Speaking up for what works for you is the best way to respect yourself and respect your work. Learn to communicate what matters for you. It will set up a new way of working that could well be a win-win for you, your manager, and your organisation.

Maintaining boundaries at personal level

When we set boundaries, it is not that we are being selfish. Rather, we are paying attention to the most important person in our life – ourself.

A friend of mine once told me how she had to change her hostel room because her roommate would rummage through her stuff and also peep into her phone. She felt her privacy invaded and when talking did not help, she requested for a room change. In a way, she set boundaries so as not to feel intruded and interfered upon.

Another friend of mine who is well past her 60’s and lives with her parents needs to navigate her emotions and boundaries on a daily basis with them. Her parents always want to know where is she going and when she will back. While concern for daughter is the underlying emotion, the excessiveness of it has resulted in bad emotions. With the result that the daughter has now put boundaries by being mindful of what she shares with them.

By being kind to yourself you ensure your personal and professional needs are respected. This is the way to build healthier relationships and maintain a balanced lifestyle.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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