20. Boundaries Coaching Q and A

Boundaries Q and A


Boundaries are a hot topic nowadays, and there is a lot of misinformation out there. So in this episode, Mary is here to answer all of the frequently asked questions about boundaries.

One of Mary’s clients, Lesley, chats with Mary about questions that have come up for her around boundaries and questions people have asked her frequently. Mary is here to set the record straight. So let’s talk boundaries!

Main Episode Takeaways

  • What boundaries really are
  • How a life coach can get you where you want to be
  • Difference between boundaries and rules
  • Guiding principles of learning boundaries

Want to learn more about boundaries?

– Boundaries quiz HERE
Take my Boundaries 101 Course
– Do you want to overcome your hurdles of people pleasing? Book a free call with Mary!


Mary: Hey friends, I’m here with Lesley and let’s talk about boundaries. Hey, Lesley 

Lesley: Hi.

Mary: How are you? 

Lesley: I’m doing well. How are you? 

Mary: I’m good, thank you. So Lesley did some coaching with me previously and she had some follow up questions, some frequently asked questions, and so I asked her if she would just have this conversation with me and have some questions about boundaries, because I know that you guys might have the same questions. 

Lesley: Yeah in my time working with you, it’s such a vast topic that certainly I can always have boundary specific questions to my own situation. But even more than that, when I try to share with other people the good work that’s been done in me or the things that I’ve learned, I get a follow up of other questions, so I’m glad that we’re gonna be able to do a question and answer with a boundaries expert. 

Mary: Awesome. Well, fire ’em at me. What are some of these questions? 

Lesley: Okay, well, let’s just start really basic and I’d like to know a lot of people throw around the word boundaries, it’s a, it’s maybe like a token word these days. So I wonder what you mean when you say the word boundaries,

Mary: Oh, yes. I love this question. So you’re right, it is a hot topic kind of on the internet and social media these days, the word boundaries. And, and I think that’s good. I love that there’s more awareness around the topic of boundaries. And I also think that there’s some misconceptions out there about what boundaries really are. And when I say the word boundaries, I mean a decision that we make about what we’re willing to participate in and what we’re not willing to participate in. And I think I shared in episode two my favorite kind of everyday language definition of boundaries is Brene Brown, and she says, what’s okay for me and what’s not okay for me. And so that’s the language that I use when I’m working coaching women. Is what’s okay for me, what’s not okay for me. Some other ways that we might phrase that depending on the situation that we’re working through could sound something like, what I’m willing to do, what I’m not willing to do, what’s my responsibility versus what’s not my responsibility. It could be like I will versus I will not. But really it’s around your willingness to participate in a situation in your life.

Lesley: Yeah. Already, because I know where those questions lead, having done some of your coaching. Mm-hmm. They sound so succinct right there, but I know how much deeper those kind of nuggets of wisdom go. So when you learn to exercise just even that, what I’m willing to participate in or not, what I will do or not I know how strong those concepts can be when you really unpack them and get good at using them for yourself. What is a boundaries coach and maybe who needs them? 

Mary: Yeah, so people ask me this every single day. What’s what, wait, what? You’re a what? What’s a boundaries coach? Is that a real thing? 

Lesley: Did you make that up? 

Mary: I did make it up actually. When people ask me, did I make that up, I always say, yes, I did. So what it means is that I am a life coach, a business coach and I specialize in helping women have better boundaries. When you’re a coach, you have a specific tool set, right? So I have a tool set, I have a set of skills, a set of training, knowledge, expertise that helps me to help people move from one space to another space. And so I see coaching really as a vehicle, kinda like a Cinderella stage coach, if you think of it that image way, of this is where you’re at. We’re gonna assess where you’re at and then you decide where you wanna be. And then as the coach, I am the vehicle. I help move you to where you wanna be. And that skillset really transfers to all different areas of someone’s life. And similarly for business coaching, right? So this is kind of where you’re at in your business and this is where you wanna be, and this is the path to get there, and I can help support you along that path. 

So coaching is the vehicle that I use to help women have better boundaries and boundaries is my favorite thing to talk about. And so that is the area that I specialize in. And the truth is, you know, I can help people with all kinds of life problems. And I have, and sometimes I do. Because the skillset really is the same, but boundaries is the work that I feel called to do in the world. And so that’s the work that I love, it’s where my area of expertise is, it’s where I specialize. But you know, I can help people through coaching to all the things; to change their mindset, to lose weight, to make more money, to have better relationships, all of those things. But boundaries is the area of coaching that is uniquely mine in the world and that I specialize in because it’s my favorite thing and it’s because I think it’s where I’ve been called to help.

Lesley: Nice. When I try to relay what I have learned, I’m not as articulate as you are when I’m, when I explain something and then I’m, you know, met with a follow up question. So just for maybe my own knowledge or anybody listening to this, what is the difference between boundaries and rules?

Mary: Oh, good one. I love this question actually. So boundaries are for me, my boundaries help me clarify and decide what I’m willing to do and what I’m not willing to do, right? What’s okay for me and what’s not okay for me. And rules, they are for other people or for groups of people, right. So when we think about rules like we have rules within our families, Right? We have rules within our communities. They’re called laws, right? Right? So there’s rules, like a rule for our family is that we don’t call people names or we don’t hit people in our family, or we don’t tell lies in our family, right? Those are rules for people in a group that want to live together. We come up with these rules so that we can live together kind of in harmony, right? Like these are group agreements that we have as a group of people that we want to be able to coexist. And in our communities, you know, we have laws, we have governing bodies that tell us like, this is the law and you’re expected to follow these laws or these rules to keep everybody else safe. So we drive on the right side of the road, we stop at a traffic light, we don’t steal things from each other, right? Like these are laws that we have that help us to coexist with other. But my boundaries are for me, it helps me to be able to maintain my self-respect and protect myself from being hurt. And they may or may not be the same things as the rules in our families or in our communities. But they are just for me. It’s how I’m able to show up and participate in a way that feels good to me.

Lesley: I get that question or even maybe sometimes struggled with it myself under the umbrella of kinda like what you just said around like rules and laws. Because there are consequences you know, within your community or out there in the world when it relates to laws when you break or bend those And so when somebody is just starting to establish boundaries, do boundaries go hand in hand with consequences to violating boundaries? And is that something that I need to have firmly established for myself or can I play it situation by situation as I go? 

Mary: Yeah, so my boundaries are for me, but my boundaries are not for you. Like I don’t get to decide what you’re willing to do and not willing to do. You get to decide what you’re willing to do and not willing to do. Right? And so I don’t get to make boundaries for other people or on other people. I don’t get to enforce my boundaries on other people, and that’s a big misconception. But rules are for a group of people. So they should, in theory, be the same for every person, right? 

Lesley: If I don’t always come to a complete stop at a stop sign, is it reasonable to assume that I am then a boundary bender? Um, no. I’m joking there, but could you give maybe a really simple example of how somebody would just establish a basic boundary and an example of what someone could do if a boundary was violated. 

Mary: Yeah, for sure. So consequences are for rules for sure. I wanna get back to that really quickly and then I’ll do one. And consequences are for rules, right? And whoever creates the rule is responsible for enforcing the rule. Whoever creates the boundary is responsible for enforcing the boundary. And so if I have a boundary, it’s my job to follow through on my boundary, because my boundary’s for me. So sometimes a misconception is that I’m gonna set the boundary and then you have to follow it. 

Lesley: Right. 

Mary: That’s a rule. That’s not a boundary. So an example is name calling. So I have a boundary that I’m not gonna participate in conversations, where I’m being called names, or people are being called names. People I love, groups of marginalized people. Like I’m just not gonna participate in conversations where there’s hateful speech or, you know, character attacks or name calling. I’m not willing to do that. Okay? That’s not actually a law where I live. That’s not a rule where I live. If you go on the internet, you can find people calling people mean names, like that’s allowed, I have free speech here, right? But it’s a boundary for me that I’m not gonna participate in those conversations that way. Right? So it’s my responsibility to follow through, which means that, say you and I are having a conversation, and I don’t know, you start calling me mean names. 

Lesley: I can think of one or two. No, I would never. 

Mary: Or maybe you, we have a mutual, you know, colleague that you’re calling names, right? And you’re like, you know, what might you say? 

Lesley: oh my gosh. You put me on a spot and all of a sudden, I can’t think of something mean to say. It flows like living water from me sometimes. Um, she’s such a turd. She’s so arrogant. I don’t wanna be around her and her ugly face. 

Mary: Yeah. Right. She’s so, yep. She’s so arrogant. She’s so ugly. She’s always doing this. She’s never doing that. Right? All the things. Right. So my job is I’m not gonna participate. So I might change the subject. I might say, whoa, whoa, whoa, Lesley, I don’t talk about people like that. Right. Especially if it’s a person I have a relationship with. Right? Or I might say something like, Hey, I understand you’re frustrated and I’m not gonna join in on this. Or I might leave the conversation. I might be like, you know what, this isn’t okay for me. I gotta go right? Because it’s my job to follow through with my boundaries. I’m not gonna show up that way.

Lesley: One of the things that always stood out for me when I got to do some of your coaching, I particularly enjoyed the group coaching but also got the benefit of some individual coaching, which was phenomenal as well. But one of the kind of tenets of that that stood out for me is how you, and I believe you even use this word lovingly draw boundaries. And that is incredibly important to you. So even if you have somebody violating your boundaries they’re in your life for a reason or you keep them in your life for a reason. And managing that relationship in a loving way when feelings might get hurt or boundaries are crossed, was always something that you were able to coach women through very well. So that stood out for me in the work I got to do with you. Are there guiding principles of your own around that?

Mary: Yes, for sure. So the first guiding principle of the work that I do with women having better boundaries is that we are born valuable, right? That you are born valuable. That I am born valuable. That every single human being comes to earth inherently valuable. And that means that the people that we are struggling in our relationships with or the people that we’re interacting with we’re also born equally valuable, right? And so I’m not here to teach people, like you’re so much more important than everybody else and they should do what you say. That’s not what I’m doing here, right? Oftentimes when people will come to me, they’ll say, you know, this is what happened, and they describe the the circumstance and I say, okay, so what’s the most generous assumption we can make about why that person may have done that? Right. And we wanna have compassion for the people around us because that’s what makes me a better person. That’s what makes me show up with kindness and compassion. And the truth is, I believe that most people are doing the best they can with the knowledge and the skills that they have. And, we wanna use our boundaries to keep people in, to continue to nurture our relationships with the people we love and trust. And when boundaries are done correctly, they actually leave us more connected to the people around us. 

Lesley: That is, again, very well said. It kind of makes me think of another question, I guess what are some typical struggles that people who are first setting boundaries might have? Because I think there might be some internal dialogue that I will push somebody away or maybe I’m selfish for telling them no. In your work with women, what are some typical struggles you’ve seen when people first start setting boundaries or when they come to you and they’re maybe scared to set boundaries. 

Mary: Mm-hmm. So when they come to me before we’ve done any work together, oftentimes what boundaries in real life look like are, they’re very, very busy. They are busy, busy, busy women. Their relationships are important to them. Their work is important to them. Their families are important to them, and they are doing the best they can to make everything good for everybody else around them. And so they’re exhausted. They’re like right on the edge of burning out and they don’t really understand like they’re just, they want everybody to be happy. They want everybody to feel good and they kind of secretly miserable. And so, there’s that. 

And then the other kind of group of people that I see is you know, they have a little bit of a difficult relationship in their life, and they might have a relationship with someone who they’ve thought about setting boundaries on, or they’ve tried setting boundaries on, or they’ve even thought about cutting that person out of their life because they don’t quite have the skillset to decide what’s okay for them to communicate, what’s okay for them to follow through. And so they’re just trying to navigate a really hard relationship. And so that oftentimes looks like they’re mad at the same person over and over and over again. So they kind of complain about, you know, so-and-so who’s always kind of a stressor in their life. And then once we start working together the first thing that we do is the foundation of boundary work is really helping them to realize their self-worth and building their confidence and teaching them how to make empowered decisions from that place of self-worth.

And so they oftentimes, they’ll struggle with like, I wanna say no, but I don’t want them to feel upset. Or I want to ask for this thing, but I don’t want to be an inconvenience to anybody else or I just don’t want anyone else to feel disappointed. I feel guilty for being a human, having a human experience, having human needs and wants and desires and so really kind of just working through the fear spoken or unspoken fear, of what’s gonna happen if I show up differently in these relationships? And then, the boundary work really is once we set that foundation and they’re confident, then it’s works like a charm. The first step is we decide our boundaries from that place of confidence. The second step is we communicate our boundaries. So we practice easy ways to have hard conversations, and then the third step is we follow through with our boundaries and really have meaningful self-care.

Lesley: All right, so I’m feverishly taking notes on my end, and I’d like to just say I did come prepared for this, q and a with a bunch of questions for you. And I feel like that one answered my question and I’ll just read it to you for the sake of laughs at this point. But it literally says boundaries, it’s a great idea, but how do I do it? So that’s one of my questions and I feel like that 1, 2, 3 kind of hit on that a little bit. But if you have anything you’d like to add to that wonderful question. 

Mary: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s the same thing. We start with the foundation of self-worth and build your confidence up and then we empower you to really get clear, clarify what you’re willing to do and what you’re not willing to do from that place of confidence. Then we practice saying it, and then we practice following through. And it takes a few times. That’s another thing that people often are surprised about is, I always tell folks that I’m working with like, give it three to five times, give it three to five times. It’s like learning to ride a bike, right? You gotta give it three to five times. You’re gonna have to have a similar conversation with the same person that you love three to five times before you are comfortable and before they really understand and it makes a change and helps your relationship. 

Lesley: Or you could be a stubborn nut to crack like myself and it could take three to five months of having these conversations and just growing. You don’t see it at the time because it’s very frustrating to be in the middle of what you feel like is these great attempts to set boundaries and what is actually playing out is a very unskilled, all these efforts are actually unskilled. So I can recall coming back to you several times saying, like, Mary, I tried this. I, I tried to say this, or I tried to do this, and was a little bit of a hiccup in it, and I had maybe this block in my head about, all right, well, I just need to say the thing and then they’ll do the thing. I just need to say the boundary and then they’ll do it. But I think I kept missing that one principle part that boundaries are for me and what will I do if you know, if a boundary isn’t being followed kind of thing. 

Mary: Yes. What happens is boundaries is a learned skill, right? Which means we’re not gonna do it perfectly every time and it’s actually really good news because anyone can learn the skill, right? So I was just thinking about how, you know, my little girl recently learned to ride a bike and at first it’s like, okay, so first you’re gonna need to understand that you have to hold the handlebars, and the way you turn this wheel is the direction you’re gonna go. Okay? Then you need to understand, like you have to move your feet to get the movement, right? And then once you’re going, you’ve gotta balance it and it just takes a little bit of time to learn how, but it does work. There’s hope, there’s possibility that with practice boundaries is a learned skill and anyone can learn it. So if you don’t currently have the skill, it’s totally okay because you can learn it and I can teach you how. So I do want to kind of leave that hope that yes, it’s not perfect and I wish that it was like smooth sailing and a really pretty ride, but the truth is that there’s hope that it’s possible and it’s a learned skill. 

Lesley: How does having good boundaries make somebody a better communicator? 

Mary: Oh, I love this question. So boundaries is all about communication, right? Boundaries is about like, I’m gonna take responsibility for myself, for what I need, for what I want, and I’m going to clearly ask for what I want or what I need and be responsible for my emotional needs. Right? So sometimes we start with like, Hey, this is not okay. Right? Maybe that example of like, it’s not okay for me to be called names, right? Or participate in conversations where there’s name calling. So then our communication is we make a request. So I’m gonna request that we change the subject. I’m gonna request that we do something differently. I might request that we don’t talk about that. I might request that we end our conversation and then we ask essentially for what we need, and then our boundary is in turn, so if this were to happen again, this is what I’m gonna do to protect and respect myself. So sometimes we have the conversation, sometimes we don’t have the conversation. That’s a whole nother podcast. But it just makes us very clear on what we’re asking, and it honors the other person’s agency to decide what they’re willing to do and what they’re not willing to do. Right? So when we become better at setting boundaries, the people around us have that advantage of being able to be really clear about how are they willing to show up based on the example that we’re setting for them and the tone that we’re setting in our relationships. 

Lesley: Yeah. It makes sense that the work that you do with people largely starts with a conversation around self-worth. Because I find that even when I struggled to set good boundaries or when I struggled feeling like I was able to maintain boundaries, or I struggled with feeling that maybe they were violated, so then what do I do next? Even when I was struggling to kind of crack the code of boundaries or kind of graduate in steps, I at least found that I could clearly voice other needs a little easier. They might not have been boundary needs, but they were just other needs. And I found my own voice maybe getting a little bit bigger, where it needed to be bigger.

Mary: Yes, yes, absolutely. I think when we start pulling apart the layers of that onion, those of us who have struggled with boundaries, those of us who are still struggling with boundaries in the heart of that, is oftentimes, struggles with self-worth and self-confidence. And one of the blessings of work with boundaries, one of the results, one of the outcomes that I love to celebrate with people is an increase in self-confidence and an increase in self-worth. And so consistently the women that I coach you know, will report significant improvements in their self-worth and their self-esteem and their self-confidence. And I love that. That’s one of my favorite things. 

Lesley: Yes, I do too. It was an unexpected benefit. Because I think another bonus word out there is self-care. We hear a lot about that and I think people maybe attribute self-care quote unquote to like taking bubble baths or having a glass of wine or things like that. Others of us attribute it to paying, you know, like I actually adulted, I did all the adulting I needed to do today, and I paid my bills and I did the laundry and that felt good for me. But also think there’s this kind of added little gift of, there’s an element of self-care and doing boundaries work with you that I didn’t expect to get. Do other people tell you that when they talk to you?

Mary: Yes, for sure. So the relationship between boundaries and self-care, I think is sometimes misunderstood. The way that I teach self-care is that self-care is all about connection and that that’s in three areas connecting to yourself, including your body, your thoughts, your feelings, your creativity, connecting to people that you love and trust, and then connecting to something bigger than yourself, whatever that is for you. Could be higher power, higher purpose could be nature. And that boundaries is an important part of that umbrella term of self-care. And that sometimes the way that we practice self-care is through honoring the boundaries that we set for ourselves. And the way that we follow through with boundaries is by self-care. So there’s a little bit of a reciprocity there and I love that relationship. And it’s very much part of the coaching. We start with self-care. During our group coaching program, one of the very first topics that we address is self-care, and then we always end with self-care too. So throughout the program, people are practicing that self-care, and so they learn to leave with a very robust plan for self-care, that they know what to do to take care of themselves regularly, and they know how to double down when things get hard, and they know how to go back to it when they’re falling through with their boundaries.

Lesley: It would be my hope that women out there, when they’ve gotten a chance to work with you, and then sometime down the road they’re on the internet or on social media accounts or whatever, and somebody else is throwing around that buzzword self-care that they read that and they think to themselves boundaries. That boundaries and self-care maybe become a little bit more synonymous than bubble baths and self-care kind of thing. Those boundaries just provide so much, like you said, for relationships and communication and things like that. 

One of the other questions that I have had myself and have been approached with in conversation was, how do you help people kind of flush out what is actually a boundaries issue?

Mary: Yeah. So it is difficult for folks to see boundary issues in real life. That’s part of the reason why I created that boundaries quiz, so that we can identify what boundaries look like in real life. So for folks who are listening, go to my website and take the boundaries quiz, and you’ll kind of get more awareness around boundaries in real life. But what I wanna say about it is boundary issues in real life often look like people are being disrespectful to us. They look like I don’t have enough time. I have not enough hours in the day. They look like I have these really difficult relationships with people that I love. They look like I’m overwhelmed. I’m stressed out. I feel unappreciated. 

Lesley: Yeah All right. So I know we’re gonna probably wrap up here soon, but what is the process for working with you?

Mary: Yeah, so I work with women. I have a program called Loving Boundaries and it includes group coaching and individual coaching. So it’s a hybrid of individual and group coaching. It’s 4-6 months. It works like a charm. We go through all four pillars of those foundations of setting our self-worth and our self-esteem and our self-confidence, and then practicing deciding our boundaries. Practicing hard conversations in easy ways, communicating those boundaries and then practicing following through with self-care. If you’re interested in learning more, you can just go to my website, it’s boundaries coach.com and there’s a services section and I’ll tell you all about my coaching programs and there’s ways you can contact me there. Set up a call where you can meet with me. I always offer 30 minutes of real coaching for free, so you can kind of try on coaching with me. You can email me through my website. 

Lesley: All right. Thank you very much. 

Mary: Thanks, Lesley 

Lesley: Thank you. 

Mary: All right. See ya.