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Personal Boundaries 101: Your Guide to Keeping It Simple

As we head into a new year, many of us are buzzing with motivation to improve our lives — from commitments to healthier eating to exercising more frequently to organizing our homes and finances. Whatever your individual goals, January tends to be a month when we pile our plates with more. But this year, we’re encouraging you to pause and consider what you’d like to eliminate instead — to assess what’s no longer serving you.

With the help of the experts at Onsite, we made a list of “anti-resolutions” we’re committing to in 2023.

Anti-Resolutions for the New Year

#1: Resolve not to compare your life to what you see on the Internet.

Social media can be an incredibly helpful tool, but it has its drawbacks, too. One of the most prevalent is that reality often dramatically differs from the brief snippets we see as we scroll through our feeds — and that makes it easy to fall into the trap of making comparisons.

“We’ve all heard the familiar adage that comparison is the thief of joy,” says Onsite Editorial and Community Director Mickenzie Vought. “Raise your hand if you’ve felt that sinking, gross feeling in your stomach after a quick scroll through your newsfeed. One friend has the perfect photo of her family’s holiday travel. Another is sharing the great meal she and her partner had on the town last night. And another person you’ve never met in real life is sharing the five tips she used to get out of debt, lose 10 pounds, and get 12 hours of sleep every night.”

One look at someone else’s seemingly perfect existence can be enough to throw us into a spiral of anxiety, shame, envy, and even depression. Organizational Psychologist Bob Hutchins says, “The more we live in others’ imagined lives, the less room we have for enjoyment of our own life.”

Mickenzie adds, “Here’s the truth that can be hard to remember when we’re stuck in a shame-scroll spiral on Instagram: When we compare ourselves to other people on the Internet, we’re comparing the best version of them to the worst version of ourselves.”

A step in the right direction: Let this be a year of “comparison detox.” Give yourself some grace, and don’t let someone else’s display of “perfection” be your guide!

“This year, when we start the all-too-familiar social media comparison spiral, we can create systems to limit our exposure to social media, remind ourselves what’s true, choose to show up in our own lives, and be present for the moments that matter,” says Mickenzie. “This might look like putting a time limit on your social media app usage for the day, scheduling regular technology detoxes, or unfollowing people who make you feel poorly about yourself.”

#2: Resolve not to wear “busy” as a badge of honor.

Being busy sounds standard enough, right? We have a lot on our plates, and we strive to accomplish everything so we can feel successful — at home, at work, and in our relationships. But being busy can become an emotional crutch and an excuse to disconnect. It’s also easy to get caught up in completing tasks and lose sight of our self-care.

“At Onsite, we often remind people that we’re all human beings, not human doings. But unfortunately, it is easy to forget this simple truth in a culture that overvalues accomplishments and accolades,” says Mickenzie.

Remember: Our worth and value aren’t measured by our level of busyness. “No one is handing out ribbons for the ‘most burned-out,’ but somehow, many of us are competing for first place,” says Mickenzie. “From our home lives to our relationships to our workplaces, many of us are overscheduled, unsatisfied, and on the verge of burnout.”

A step in the right direction: With symptoms of burnout at an all-time high in 2022, a new year offers an opportunity to reassess our approach.

“This year, let’s all take a deep breath, create some margin, and stop seeking an award for exhaustion,” advises Mickenzie. “When we give ourselves permission to rest, we often find that we’re actually more productive and accomplish more of what matters most! This might look like blocking time in your calendar that is left intentionally empty or learning to listen and rest when you’re actually tired — not just when you’ve reached a point of total exhaustion.”

#3: Resolve not to ban emotions from the workplace.

When it comes to workplace emotions, there’s an unspoken rule: Keep them to yourself. This is particularly true for women. But feelings don’t take a backseat simply because you’re at the office or on a conference call, and our mental health can’t be “shelved” during work hours.

“Historically, we’ve been told that bringing our emotions into the workplace, especially as women, was a recipe for disaster,” offers Mickenzie. “Though we’ve made progress in opening up the conversation around mental health, there remains a stigma associated with being ‘too emotional.’ But the research actually tells us that emotional intelligence (EQ) outpaces cognitive intelligence (IQ) four to one.”

In other words, using your emotional awareness to guide your decision-making has its place in the workplace, after all. Onsite Product Development Director Candi Shelton says, “If we can consider our emotions as vital mechanisms for delivering information to us, then we can begin to see just how useful ALL emotions can be. In fact, if we’re willing to get curious, each of our emotions offers us a gift and invitation that will serve us in every area of our lives, including work.”

A step in the right direction: Consider new ways to manage your emotions at work.

“Our emotions provide us with a unique superpower that, when leveraged and thoughtfully managed, can be a game-changer in our workplaces,” says Mickenzie. “This year, show up authentically at work and invite others to do the same! This might look like appropriately sharing what’s going on in your life with your team or getting curious about your emotions at work.”

#4: Resolve not to take care of others at the expense of your own well-being.

Empathy, sympathy, and compassion are all beautiful blessings that help us in a myriad of ways — they offer us deeper connections, and there’s a profound sense of comfort and gratification that comes from being able to extend those emotional gifts to the humans and animals we love. But we can also be at risk of over-extending ourselves if we rely too heavily on being a “fixer.” Helping others at the expense of our own self-care isn’t sustainable. “As women, many of us pride ourselves in the love, care, and attention we provide to the people around us,” says Mickenzie. “Unfortunately, while this can be one of the greatest gifts we offer to the world, it can also be detrimental to our health and well-being.”

A step in the right direction: Don’t neglect your own emotional needs! Genuinely supporting someone means being authentic with yourself first; be honest about your capacity.

Tara Booker, an adjunct therapist at Milestones, Onsite’s residential trauma program, says, “Doing your own work first is crucial in knowing what you have to give emotionally. I tell people if you don’t have a dollar in your pocket, you can’t give someone more than a dollar. But emotionally, we trick ourselves and ‘do it anyway.’ That’s when we get tripped up. When we do this, we don’t show up how we want to, become irritable, and lose our patience. It’s important to check in with yourself and honestly answer, ‘What do I have emotionally to give today?’”

young men and women in yoga class
“This year, remind yourself that taking care of your own needs is not selfish but rather the most selfless thing you can do in your relationships. Don’t try to pour from an empty cup. This might look like scheduling time in your calendar to do things that fuel you or getting honest about your needs in your most intimate relationships.”

#5: Resolve not to say “yes” when you want to say “no.”

Learning to create healthy boundaries and saying “no” is no easy feat — whether it involves the work-life balance, attending a social gathering, or taking on too many time-intensive projects.

“Every time we say yes to one thing, we inevitably say no to something else,” says Mickenzie, “whether it’s agreeing to a project at work that will keep us from showing up at home or saying yes to an event we don’t want to attend and jampacking our Saturday, we’re inevitably not present in the places we actually want to be. Saying yes, instead of setting a boundary when we really want to say no, comes with consequences.”

“Not setting boundaries has emotional, physical, mental, and relational consequences,” explains Madison Lawn, MSCMHC Onsite Guide. “There is a toll when we exist in relationships and spaces that are unsafe, draining, and unhealthy. We may think we’re being helpful, selfless, and staying open, but in reality, we are closing ourselves off, people-pleasing, and opening ourselves up to conditional love.”

A step in the right direction: Practice being protective of your “yes.”

“This year, take the time and space to evaluate the total weight of your yes to give your time and attention to the things that really matter instead of agreeing to all the things and not being fully present anywhere,” says Mickenzie. “This might look like taking a beat before answering, telling someone you’ll circle back with them, or bringing in an external voice to help you evaluate priorities.”