May 25, 2023

Are Your Personal Boundaries Slipping?–How to Read the Warning Signs 

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As a mentor or a leader, you become a caretaker of others. This automatically makes you highly susceptible to ignoring boundaries, often without even realising the danger you are placing yourself in. Today, we’ll look at why our boundaries fail or slip and how to recognise, and then prevent them doing so. 

Why do we fail to keep our personal boundaries? 

I have found that living within the western, Christian community adds to the difficulty of drawing healthy boundary lines for ourselves. Many leaders I know, myself included, have a strong pioneer spirit; meaning we want to be capable of doing everything ourselves. We pride ourselves on working long and hard, for overcoming difficulties and for pushing ourselves to greater accomplishments. Of course, there are many healthy and admirable aspects to this mindset, but refusing to admit we are overwhelmed, sick or tired is not one of them. 

Similarly, as followers of Christ, we wish to do the most good possible, and feel invincible with the Lord working alongside and through us. I remember attending night school to repeat grade twelve. It was so much work, and I was exhausted. I would remind myself that I can do all things through Christ, and it certainly did help me make it through those difficult months. 

However, there is a limit to how long and hard we should push ourselves. We work to help those around us and feel gratified by the work we do. It can feel not only difficult, but morally wrong to take a break and care for ourselves. However, like a parent needing to put on their own air supply masks before helping their children in an airplane loss of oxygen, we need to make sure we are healthy in mind, body, and spirit as we help those around us. Becoming sick, stressed and burnt-out will only damage ourselves and our work. 

In both cases, it is vital to recognise that we are not God. We can’t do everything. While we want to keep expanding our abilities in order to reach our goals, there are times to step aside and trust that others will take care of the work. Sometimes, there are moments to put the work on hold. God wants the best for us, not just our work!

How can we know our limits and manage our boundaries? 

Just like the warning lights a car alert us to being low on gas or oil, we can see warning lights telling us when we need to refuel or take time to repair ourselves. These warning lights may look different for different people, but there are certain areas I like to look at when I am worried that my boundaries are slipping: 

Emotional – Am I anxious? Irritable? Depressed? 

Warning light example: I tend to get a lot of vocational anxiety when my boundaries are slipping. 

Physical – What am I eating? Drinking? Am I exercising? 

Warning light example: An early sign of boundary slipping for me is drinking an extra glass of wine at dinner. 

Spiritual – How is my soul? Am I making time for Jesus? 

Warning light example: I find my prayers to become frantic during stress, and I’m less likely to be careful about the sort of material I am watching or reading. 

Financial – Am I budgeting well? Am I buying too much? Am I being too stingy? 

Warning light example: I can spend more than I make when my boundaries slip.

Relational – is there tension or distance in my relationships? 

Warning light example: I often mind myself spending more time surfing on my phone or in front of the television when my boundaries are stretched. 

I am managing my boundaries well:

Very true of me   True   Somewhat True    Occasionally untrue    Untrue    Very untrue of me 

I am experiencing discipline slip: 

Very true of me   True   Somewhat True    Occasionally untrue    Untrue    Very untrue of me 

Reflection Questions:

  • What are my personal warning lights in each category? 
  • What have I done in the past to get my boundaries back in place? 
  • Am I experiencing any slipping boundaries currently ? 
  • Who can I talk to about my boundaries in my life  that will share honest feedback? 

What happens next? 

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