We put up with a lot, all day every day. We put up with negative attitudes of co-workers or family members, we put up with traffic jams, we put up with people showing up late to meetings or appointments or even dinner, we put up with uncomfortable clothes, we put up with being on hold for too long. We also put up with a lot inside of ourselves: our fears and insecurities, our inability to express our frustration to our friends about their actions, our acceptance of ourselves as being smaller or less important than others. So what happens when we get to a breaking point where we just can’t take anymore?

Realistically, we probably blow up first, whether it’s a little blow-up or a big one, we let off steam and release the pressure. We complain to our closest friends and get some sympathy and acknowledgement or shut ourselves in a car and just scream for a while, or give someone a piece of our minds. Then we often go back to doing things much the same way we were doing them before, only a little more impatiently. Sometimes we decide to try a different approach or begin to understand that what we want just isn’t going to happen, and sometimes we just resolve to push harder in the direction we were already going. But what if we could really do something differently?

I’ve been thinking this week about creating better boundaries because I’m going to be teaching a workshop about that on Friday night, and it occurs to me that a lot of my frustrations in relationships with others come from not setting clear boundaries and letting them know my expectations. My own frustrations often stem from my own lack of communicating my needs to others clearly and precisely and then checking for understanding or asking for a response. At other times the problem is that I have set a boundary, but I allow it to be crossed, and then I allow it to be crossed again, and eventually it slips and isn’t much of a boundary at all. Then I get angry because the other person isn’t respecting my non-boundary, but I forget that neither am I. I allow the needs and desires of others to be more important than my own and then feel resentful towards them for it.

As I work on strengthening my boundaries, I invite you to do the same. Think about the places in your life where your boundaries are lacking or need more clarity. Ask yourself how important it is and if you’re willing to do the work to change that. Having someone to help you sort all this out is a great idea, especially if that person can be honest about your approach to the problem and ideas about solving them. Then make a small change and see what happens. Build on small successes and use the failures to give you the information you need to move forward.