8 boundaries all successful women set in life, according to psychologists

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As women, we often find ourselves juggling a million responsibilities, from managing our careers to taking care of our families and everything in between. 

However, according to author and psychologist Terri Cole, who has worked with countless high-achieving women, learning to establish clear boundaries is absolutely essential for our well-being and success.

So what exactly are healthy boundaries? 

Cole defines them as “your own personal rules of engagement, letting other people know what’s okay with you, and what is not okay with you.” 

Sounds simple, right? But many of us have a hard time actually communicating our boundaries effectively.

One key reason for this struggle is that most of us were never really taught how to set boundaries in the first place. 

As Cole puts it, “We learned the opposite of that. Most of us were raised and praised for being self-abandoning codependents.” We were told to be nice, to put others first, and to avoid conflict at all costs.

But constantly sacrificing our own needs for others is a recipe for burnout, resentment, and even addiction. Cole says that many of her clients turn to alcohol or other addictions to cope with the stress of over-functioning and people-pleasing.

So how can we break free from these unhealthy patterns and start setting boundaries like a boss? 

Here are 8 types of boundaries that all successful women need to master, according to Cole and other psychology experts:

1) Time boundaries 

Successful women know that their time is precious, and they’re not afraid to protect it. This means saying no to unnecessary meetings, delegating tasks when possible, and making non-negotiable time for self-care and relaxation. 

It’s about making sure that we make space for personal time which allows us to recharge, social events which help us to connect to others, and quality time with family, which is surely the reason we choose to have a family in the first place!

We then need to communicate this to those around us. Practically speaking, we can do this by explaining them to a partner or colleague and blocking off time in a work or family calendar.

2) Emotional boundaries

High-achieving women understand that they aren’t responsible for managing other people’s emotions or solving their problems. They can offer support and empathy without taking on the emotional burdens of others.

This can be hard of course, as we want to take away the pain and discomfort from our loved ones. But oftentimes people just need a kind shoulder to cry on or an attentive ear to listen.

And if they do want us to fix their problems then that may mean they are evading taking responsibility for their own lives, which ultimately will cause them problems in the long run.

We can point the way for others but we can’t run the race for them.

If you’re finding it hard to let go of other’s troubles, make sure that you let them know if it’s getting too much for you. Or take some time out to recenter yourself. This can be done graciously but firmly, with love and kindness.

3) Physical boundaries 

This one should be a given and as a society, we are getting better, but we mustn’t stop now.

Whether it’s unwanted touching or someone invading your personal space, successful women are clear about their physical boundaries and aren’t afraid to enforce them. They know that their comfort and safety come first.

In the past (and unfortunately even today) women have ‘allowed’ their physical boundaries to be trespassed, feeling that they didn’t have the right to protest. 

Successful women can set the bar for the way that all women should be treated, whether at work, out at a bar, on public transport, or at home.

4) Financial boundaries

Smart women are proactive about setting financial boundaries in both their personal and professional lives. They avoid lending money they can’t afford to lose, and they’re not shy about negotiating fair compensation for their work.

The gender pay gap has been a hotly debated issue for many years now, and whilst overt patriarchy has played a big role in this, the more covert point is that men are often more willing to apply for jobs outside their skill level and ask for higher pay.

One of my best friends was recently furious when she discovered that one of her male co-workers (doing the same job!) was earning almost double what she was. When she spoke to others at the company, she found out that it was up to her to ask for pay raises.

Although that may be unfair, it’s still the way of the world in many companies, so know your worth and be ready to have the confidence to ask for it.

5) Relationship boundaries

In relationships of all kinds, successful women communicate their needs and expectations clearly. They don’t tolerate disrespect, dishonesty, or inconsiderate behavior from partners, friends, or family members. 

They listen to feedback and take in what is valid, but they don’t let anyone overstep the mark or try to define who they are.

Similarly, in work relationships, they demand the same kind of respect that they give to others. Fair’s fair, right?

Elizabeth Perry, ACC, says that healthy boundaries allow us to feel respected. In this article, she gives us some great ways to come up with our boundaries, such as journaling, and asking ‘why is this important to me?’.

6) Workload boundaries

High-performing women know their limits when it comes to their job responsibilities. They’re willing to collaborate and pitch in when needed, but they don’t allow themselves to be overworked or taken advantage of.

This is something we have to be very careful of. As a woman living in South East Asia, I see this going wrong a lot. Many times a woman will take on a man’s job or responsibility, thinking she is doing him a favor and it’s a one-time thing.

But before she knows it, that job or task has now become hers for life. 

Because the culture between men and women is different here than in the ‘Global North’, many of my Western friends try to fit in and assume more submissive roles in their work, relationships, and families than they usually would. 

But in the long run, they regret it, and that is the reason why boundaries must be set clearly and set early.

7) Feedback boundaries

While constructive feedback can be valuable, successful women set boundaries around unsolicited or harshly-delivered critiques. They’re open to input, but won’t tolerate attacks on their character or abilities. 

As Cole points out in this excellent podcast, we women have often been taught to be people pleasers, and so when someone criticizes us, we can take it as gospel rather than an opinion. And this will get in the way of success as it hampers our sense of self and our self-belief. 

I’ve had two narcissistic men in my life and as horrible as the first relationship was, it taught me to set this boundary from the start. 

In my second narcissistic relationship, there were no put-downs, because I made it clear that I wouldn’t tolerate it. There were other bad behaviors, but again that taught me which other boundaries I needed to set to maintain my well-being and sanity. And to help keep me out of toxic relationships.

8) Social media boundaries

If you’re aiming for success, the chances are that you will need a social media presence of some kind. And if you’re standing up and saying something even vaguely controversial, there are always going to be trolls that come for you. 

I remember how shocked I was to learn about the death threats that successful women received whether it was for activism about STIs or Gamergate which was about terrorizing women in the gaming industry.

Now those are very extreme examples, and it’s the whole of society’s responsibility to make sure this kind of thing isn’t allowed to happen. But from our side, we need to learn to ignore trolls. Many well-known male and female personalities don’t even bother to read their comments to maintain their boundaries and mental health.

Remember ladies, don’t feed the trolls!

Other social media boundaries may be more personal, such as limiting time spent scrolling and keeping certain aspects of their lives private.

Closing thoughts

Of course, setting these types of boundaries is often easier said than done. It takes practice, self-awareness, and a willingness to tolerate some discomfort and pushback. 

But as Cole reminds us, “We cannot communicate those things until we know those things.” The first step is getting crystal clear on what our boundaries actually are – what we like, what we don’t like, what we’ll accept and what’s completely off-limits.

From there, it’s about learning to express our boundaries calmly and confidently, without over-explaining or apologizing. It’s also important to be prepared to follow through with consequences when our boundaries are violated.

Ultimately, setting healthy boundaries is an act of self-love and self-respect. It communicates to others that we value ourselves and expect to be treated accordingly. And while it may rile up some people in our lives at first, holding our boundaries is what allows us to show up authentically and powerfully in all areas of our lives.

So to all my fellow ambitious women out there – let’s start normalizing boundary-setting and make it a non-negotiable part of our journeys. Trust me, your future self and your daughters will thank you!

Louisa Lopez

Louisa is writer, wellbeing coach, and world traveler, with a Masters in Social Anthropology. She is fascinated by people, psychology, spirituality and exploring psychedelics for personal growth and healing. She’s passionate about helping people and has been giving empowering advice professionally for over 10 years using the tarot. Louisa loves magical adventures and can often be found on a remote jungle island with her dogs. You can connect with her on Twitter: @StormJewel

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