3. Boundaries and Personal Time

Let's Talk BoundariesWhat can we do when family wants to spend time together, but we need some personal time? How do we set boundaries when we don’t want to make people feel bad?  What if we feel guilty?  

In this interview, Crystal learns to overcome people pleasing and set boundaries with her time.  Mom wants to spend every Wednesday together and control how that time is spent.  How can she tell her Mom what she actually wants and feel good about it?  In this episode, Mary coaches Crystal how to: choose her mindset, clarify her shared versus personal time boundaries, communicate the boundary to her family member, and her plan to follow through.  Crystal learns the wording to have the boundary conversation.  How will she know if she is successful at this hard boundary conversation?

Main Episode Takeaways

  • What is People Pleasing?
  • How to Overcome People Pleasing
  • Boundaries with Family Members
  • Time Boundaries
  • How to Set Boundaries
  • How to Communicate Boundaries

Want to learn more about boundaries?

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


Mary: Welcome to the Lets Talk Boundaries podcast. I’m Mary Brown, and I am speaking with Crystal today. Crystal, let’s talk boundaries. 

Crystal: Hi, Mary. Yeah, definitely. So yeah, let’s do it. 

Mary: Tell me a little bit about you and how I can help you with boundaries today. 

Crystal: So. I’m definitely new to the idea of setting boundaries. I didn’t grow up in a house where people had boundaries and so you know, over the last couple months it’s been kind of an adventure trying to figure out my own boundaries, trying to get comfortable with communicating my boundaries with people. Getting people, especially my family, to be respectful of boundaries. And also to be comfortable myself with like following through with my own boundaries. 

Mary: Mm. I can totally relate to that and I think lots of listeners can relate to that. Tell me a little bit about why you want to have boundaries. 

Crystal: Just, you know, to be more respectful of myself and to have more of my own kind of personal agency instead of just kind of constantly being a people pleaser. Because that was definitely a thing that I did for a really long time and that was part of having no boundaries was that I was just the yes man, everything, you know? And yeah, I just, you know, I feel like having boundaries for myself is gonna make it to where my life is more about me instead of making everybody else happy, and that’s what I want.

Mary: Awesome. Awesome. All right. Do you have a specific question or situation I can help you with? 

Crystal: So my biggest thing right now, I know what I want my boundaries to be. I’m getting better at communicating them, but sometimes I really struggle with following through. So I guess I would like some help with, you know, how to really kind of stick to my guns, for lack of a better phrase, but, how to follow through and how to also, not feel so guilty about following through. Because that’s my biggest thing is like I start to feel bad about like, standing firm on a boundary and that’s when I tend to stop following through.

Mary: Yes. Yes. The feeling bad about it. That’s what keeps us from doing it. Can we talk a little bit more about that, feeling bad? 

Crystal: Sure. Yeah. 

Mary: How do you wanna feel when you’re setting a boundary?

Crystal: I mean, obviously, you know, I wanna feel good about it. You know, I wanna feel like I’m doing right by myself. But I also don’t wanna feel like I’m putting anybody unnecessarily out. So I just want it to be an experience where I feel good about the boundary and the people that I set it with, they feel at least comfortable and okay with it. And nobody’s being made to feel bad, I guess is what I want. 

Mary: Okay. And how come you don’t want anyone to feel bad? 

Crystal: Probably because I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life. So making people feel bad kind of goes against everything that I have grown up doing and have done for the past 36 years. 

Mary: So what if we don’t make people feel anything? Good or bad? 

Crystal: If they’re just like, like okay with it?

Mary: No. What if I don’t have the power to control someone else’s feeling? What if your feeling there about their thoughts and experiences?

Crystal: Instead of…

Mary: Instead of my behavior 

Crystal: I mean that’s not a bad thing. And I guess really that’s the way it should be, that like people are responsible for their own feelings. But I don’t know. That’s, I’ve always felt like I needed to make everybody else feel happy or good, but that’s kind of not necessary, I guess. 

Mary: Well, I mean that is people pleasing. That’s what people feel pleasing means, right? Is we do things to try to make other people feel happy. Which sounds actually like a very noble and righteous and kind effort, right?

Crystal: Yes, definitely. 

Mary: It sounds good. 

Crystal: It does sound good. But sometimes it’s kind of exhausting and sometimes it kind of ends up making you feel bad because you’ve kind of screwed yourself to make everybody else feel good. 

Mary: Yes, that’s true. It’s putting other people’s feelings above ours. It also sets us up for failure because we don’t have the ability to cause people’s feelings. 

Crystal: Right. And yeah. Well, and you can’t make everybody happy all of the time. Like that’s genuinely impossible. 

Mary: Yeah. That’s crazy making. I’ve tried it. It didn’t work. 

Crystal: Same. 

Mary: So do we think that everyone should feel good, happy, positive all the time?

Crystal: No. I mean that’s again, that’s kind of a genuinely impossible thing because life is a series of different things and different feelings. I mean, there’s good stuff, there’s bad stuff, there’s indifferent stuff, there’s, it’s a mixed bag of everything. 

Mary: That’s right. And that’s okay. Right? All the emotions are okay.

Crystal: Yes, yes. 

Mary: As humans here on the earth, right. We all experience, all emotions. Like I don’t know anyone who’s never felt disappointment. 

Crystal: I don’t either. 

Mary: Right? But we’re so worried that something we say or do might disappoint someone. They might feel disappointed, which is just part of them being human.

Crystal: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with feeling disappointed. And I understand that. I guess I sometimes struggle with feeling like I am the cause of that. 

Mary: Me too. It doesn’t feel good to think that I’m causing someone else to feel disappointed.

Crystal: Right. It tends to make me feel really guilty. 

Mary: Mm-hmm, it’s the thought of it that makes us feel guilty, right? 

Crystal: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Mary: Because our thoughts are what create our feelings. 

Crystal: Right.

Mary: So let’s go through an example. That there’s a boundary you want to set, you think you know what it is. Can you share a little bit more about that and we can help you through?

Crystal: Yeah. So my mom and I spend time together every Wednesday. She’s kind of designated it as our day. Which is fine and enjoyable to a point. But also Wednesday is kind of my Sunday basically because I work Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. So my weekends are Tuesday, Wednesdays. And so there are times where as much as I enjoy my mom’s company and doing things with her, there comes that point where I do want to have some time on Wednesdays that is just kind of for me, whether it’s to accomplish things, you know, errands or chores around my home, or even if it’s just to have some time to just relax and read a book or go for a walk. 

I just like to have some time, some of that day for myself. But I do find myself struggling if I try to set a boundary of like, Okay mom, we’re gonna just, you know, we’re gonna do this thing, this thing, and this thing, and we’re gonna be done by one o’clock. I find myself struggling to follow through when she kind of, “oh, but like, we should stop here and, you know, look at this. Or oh, we’ve been talking about going to that place, or doing this thing”, and then I tend to not follow through on that time boundary of I said we’re, you know, I said we need to kind of be done, or I want us to be done so that I have the remainder of the day for myself.

Mary: Mm-hmm. Okay. This is a great example. I love it. Thank you for sharing it. So we’re gonna talk about personal time versus shared time. And boundaries around our personal time. So do you want to have mom and Crystal Wednesdays, or no? 

Crystal: I do, I mean, I do like to have, you know, at least a portion of the day. I mean, even if it’s just, let’s meet for lunch, you know, or let’s meet for coffee. So I do wanna maintain having some time with her, but I do also want it to be a balance of sometime with her and sometime just doing whatever Crystal needs to do or wants to do. 

Mary: Sure. So from a place of love for both you and your mom, what are you able and willing to participate in terms of your time on Wednesdays? 

Crystal: I mean, I’m able and willing to participate in spending a portion of the day with her, so I mean, if we plan a set of activities, so you know, next Wednesday we’re going to meet for lunch and then after lunch we’re gonna stop at a farmer’s market. I don’t know, I’m just picking like a random hypothetical thing. You know, and then once those two activities are done, you know, great spending time with you, mom. Love you. Okay. Have a great rest of your day. Part ways.

Mary: So, yeah. So you would like to have like a start time and an end time to your time together on wednesdays? 

Crystal: Yeah, ideally, yes. And you want it to be a portion of the day? Yes. A portion, not the whole day and then like I said, we leave and move on with the rest of our day individually.

Mary: Okay. And just to clarify, do you want spend every Wednesday with mom? 

Crystal: I would be, I mean, I would be okay if we skipped a Wednesday every once in a while, you know, maybe. Like one Wednesday a month. We just kinda get the day off. We get the day off. Yeah. 

Mary: Okay. All right. And how have your conversations about this gone so far?

Crystal: Not bad, but not great because oftentimes I find if I start to kind of try to enforce and follow through with the boundary that I just chicken out and then it becomes less about the boundary that I’m setting and kind of my having a say so in the time and things that we do. And then the control gets kind of turned over to my mom. And then the rest of the day kind of goes on her terms, which, it’s not terrible, but it’s not what I’m actively like wanting and needing for myself. 

Mary: Okay, so boundaries are about empowering you to decide what you’re willing to participate in and what you’re not willing to participate in. Right? So we’re not trying to control mom, we’re not trying to take control from mom. We just wanna make sure that you are choosing how you spend your time. Right? So your boundary in this example could sound something like: So Crystal will spend three Wednesdays of the month with mom for a proportion of the day with a start time and end time. Because that’s what you can do from a place of love for both you and your mom. Right? 

Crystal: Okay. Yeah. 

Mary: So, and then what the boundary is that Crystal will not spend all day with Mom and Crystal will not spend every single Wednesday with Mom. So the boundary is for you, we don’t set boundaries on other people. We set boundaries for ourselves. So if that’s your boundary, it’s for you. It’s not for her. Do you understand what I’m saying? Like she doesn’t have to follow or not follow your boundary. You have to show up and follow your boundary. So that’s where we’re talking about that follow through piece, right?

 So your measurement of success is going to be, did Crystal show up and honor the boundary that Crystal set for herself? Not did mom respect it or not, or did mom like it or not? Was mom pleased or mad, right? Does Crystals stand up and say, Hey mom, I love you so much. I wanna spend time with you part of the day on Wednesday three outta four weeks of the month is what I am willing and able to do. Have you had that conversation or do you want help with that conversation? 

Crystal: So I haven’t, I haven’t really explicitly had that conversation. It’s one of those things that I kind of hint at it but it’s never been like an explicit, I love you, this is my boundary. Yeah. It’s never been one of those.

Mary: Okay. Well, let’s talk about how that might sound. Okay. So just to check in, what do you want your boundary to be? 

Crystal: So I want my boundary to be that she and I spend a portion of wednesdays together. So maybe like three, even like four hours. 

Mary: So like a half day? 

Crystal: Like a half day. Yeah. Okay. Ideally, yeah, three out of the four weeks of the month. So that I do have, like one Wednesday a month to just do my own thing. 

Mary: Okay, so what’s okay for you is spending half the day with mom three Wednesdays of the month, three or four hours is about a half a day. So what’s not okay with you is spending all day with mom, 

Crystal: Right.

Mary: Spending every Wednesday with mom?

Crystal: Right? Yes. Okay. 

Mary: What else is okay with you and not okay with. 

Crystal: I mean, in terms of the way we spend time together I’m okay with, you know, us doing things like going to lunch, going shopping. or 

Mary: Is there disagreement around how to spend the time?

Crystal: Occasionally there is. There are times where she will want to come to my apartment and like we should reorganize your spice cabinet, or we should go through your cabinets and we should make a spreadsheet of all your canned goods so that you know what you have . 

Mary: Oh, man. I want your mom to come over to my house on the other half of the day on Wednesday. Can I have her one Wednesday a month to come organize my kitchen? 

Crystal: Yes. I, you know what, Mary? I would love to like send her your way. She will. I mean, she’ll alphabetize everything. She’ll, like I said, she’ll make us spreadsheets. 

Mary: Yeah. Sounds good. Okay. So do you want to spend time at your apartment or do you want to tell me more about that or not at your apartment or under some conditions? 

Crystal: I guess the best way to say it is I want the time that we spend together to be mutually agreed upon activities. 

Mary: Mm. Okay. 

Crystal: Instead of her sometimes saying like, Well, I’m gonna come over and I’m gonna reorganize your spice cabinet, or I’m gonna make a spreadsheet of your cans. I want it to be something that we, that we mutually agree upon. 

Mary: Okay. So what’s not okay for you, is not speaking up or doing activities you don’t wanna do. So that’s what we’re not gonna do. Cause that’s Crystal’s boundary for Crystal, right? 

Crystal: Yes. 

Mary: Okay. Right. So let’s practice this conversation. Remember that mindset piece that’s gonna help us feel more comfortable and more confident is you get to decide how you spend your time. Right? And you can communicate from a place of love and kindness, what’s okay for you and what’s not okay for you. And you’re responsible for your feelings.

Crystal: I’m not responsible for anybody else’s. Right, 

Mary: Right, we’re gonna be kind and loving. We’re not out in the world trying to hurt people’s feelings. We’re not out in the world trying to be mean. However, Sometimes people feel some kind of negative emotion, and that’s just part of being a human, having a human experience. It’s not our job to protect them from that. So we’re going to do kind of a three sentence method. Right? So we’re start. Love, kindness, appreciation, respect, what? Fill in the blank, whatever word fits for you. Clearly articulate what the boundary is. And then end with also love, kindness, appreciation. 

So that boundary sandwich method is what we call it. Right? So we start with kindness. Clearly state the boundary and end with kindness. Okay, so how might you start a conversation with your mom? 

Crystal: I mean, it might be something like, Mom I love that you have kind of made time and space in your own schedule to have Wednesdays be that day for us to do things together because I do love you and I love spending time with you. 

Mary: Yes. I love you and I love spending time with you. Thank you. Or I appreciate that you’ve designated Wednesdays as a time that we can spend together. Okay, and what’s the boundary? 

Crystal: The boundary would then be, I do need to have time for myself, so I want us to make our time on Wednesdays be solely for like a portion of the day instead of the full day.

Mary: Okay. How about this? I’ve decided that I would like to spend about half of the day together on Wednesdays, maybe like three or four hours doing some things that are kind of mutually agreed upon activities and that we do that three Wednesdays out of the month. And the other half of the day, the one Wednesday a month, then I’m gonna be doing things on my own and kind of use that as my personal time. Understand that this might be hard for you. It’s kind of hard for me to talk about too. 

Crystal: Yeah, it’s a little tricky, but I get it.

Mary: Yeah, this might be hard for you mom, for me to tell you this. It’s kind of hard for me to tell you this too, and thank you so much for understanding and I can’t wait to see you on Wednesday and spend those four hours with you. Right? How’s that? 

Crystal: No, I think that’s, I think that’s good.

Mary: You think it’s good? 

Crystal: I do. 

Mary: Then how are you gonna follow through? Let’s, let’s wrap it up with that follow through. 

Crystal: I mean, I think in terms of follow through, just like actively on the Wednesdays that we’re spending time together saying, you know, it’s so great that we’re able to go to lunch and, you know, run these errands or, you know, whatever the activities are but at one o’clock I would like to be able to go home so that I can work on personal things for myself. 

Mary: Mm-hmm. , you know what I like to say? This is kind of a fun one. You might try it on and be like, I have a one o’clock appointment with myself to do this.

Crystal: Yeah.

Mary: Right? Like, and it might be, I have a one o’clock appointment with myself to start my laundry and that’s something I wanna do on my own. Or it might be, I’ve got an appointment with this new book I’m writing at one o’clock or you might choose not to even tell her what it is. You could just say, I’ve got a one o’clock appointment with myself because appointments with myself matter too. Right. That’s where our confidence comes in. 

Crystal: Okay. I of late have actually been like physically making appointments, like actual appointments with like other things. 

Mary: Is that excuse to end your time?

Crystal: Yeah. Yes. I’ve actually, like, I have been scheduling things purposely on like Wednesday afternoons. Its like, okay, like I gotta be done by this time so that I can make this appointment. 

Mary: Yeah, well you could do that or you could make an appointment with yourself and honor the personal time that you have scheduled with yourself, right? Either way. Okay. All right, let’s wrap up. Is this helpful to you? 

Crystal: Yeah, it really, it is kind of just giving me better ways to communicate what I’m wanting, what my boundary is that I’m trying to set and stick with, and having some new kind of conversational tools for how to achieve it and really kind of follow through with it, so.

Mary: Hmm. What is the one thing that you learned today? 

Crystal: I think the biggest thing is just better, like real, like solid wording to put the conversation into because that, like I said I haven’t had a lot of like real formal conversation. I haven’t had the best kind of, for lack of better terms, like script for the conversation. Now kind of really knowing how to, how to phrase it out the best way. That’s gonna be really helpful. 

Mary: Awesome. Awesome. Are you gonna do it? 

Crystal: I’m definitely gonna try.

Mary: Awesome. You’ve got this. You can do it. Any last questions? 

Crystal: I think just if I had one last question that, you know, if I find that that initial kind of boundary sandwich conversation doesn’t work super well. What would be the next step? 

Mary: Well, what do you mean when you say doesn’t work well? We have to make sure we’re clear.

Crystal: Like if I’m trying to communicate my boundaries with that, and it’s like the message isn’t really received. Like I’m like not making myself super clear with it.

Mary: So the only way it wouldn’t work well is if you didn’t say it clearly. Right. Cause we’re not people pleasing anymore. We’re overcoming people pleasing, right? So the only way it wouldn’t work well is if I didn’t say, I’ve decided that I’m going to spend half a day with you, three Wednesdays of the month. Because that’s where your power is, is being able to communicate your decision around it. And her receiving is not your measurement of success. Now if you were like, mean and a jerk about it, then maybe that would be not going well. But you’re not gonna do that, right?

Crystal: No. 

Mary: You’re not gonna argue with her about why. You’re not gonna argue with her about the times you’ve already decided and you’re just communicating it to her. You’re gonna start with love, clearly communicate, end with love, and so, you get to decide if it’s gonna go well. It’s how you show up with that.

Crystal: Okay. 

Mary: You got this? 

Crystal: I think so, yeah. 

Mary: Thank you so much for talking about boundaries with me. It’s my favorite thing to talk about. 

Crystal: Well, thank you for talking with me about it and helping me as I work on mine. I appreciate it. 

Mary: You’re welcome. You’ve got this. 

Thank you.