Dreaming of boundaries

This year, in my quest for work-life balance, I decided to relook the way I respond to things. A Christian self-help book mentioned that we need to set boundaries for ourselves. This, and advice from other friends like QO, told me that I had to be more assertive and say ‘no’ when I really cannot commit extra time to a new request, be it from friends, family or work.
There is no need to say ‘yes’ too easily when someone else could (and should) have done the job; when my main work is affected; when it really isn’t important or urgent as it looks to be. I say yes either because I want to please or impress the other person, or I’m afraid, or I really don’t know the boundaries and genuinely want to help out. Of course, in an emergency many of us probably won’t mind helping out, but we shouldn’t be taken for granted, either. Some ’emergencies’ occur because of bad planning, and when it happens regularly, we should not encourage it by offering to clean up the mess again and again.
Saying ‘yes’ blindly also means less time to do existing work, resulting in a drop in quality. Then, onlookers (who don’t know the full story) will say oh, she’s not so good anymore. The person who suffers is the one who takes on too many things. Priority should be given to the proper projects (within scope) that were planned way in advance. Overall, it’s an issue I’ve prayed about frequently.
This morning, I dreamed of two imaginary instances where my boundaries were again tested. Firstly, I was back in time, planning my 2nd trip to SXSW in Austin, Texas. While packing my bags, my (dream) parents suggested that since Austin had nice golf courses (which I frankly haven’t heard of in real life), I should bring my golf clubs along as well. I said no, it’s crazy to bring them! They’re so heavy, and I’m probably going to carry lots of other stuff back home. They insisted again. I said no and finally they left it at that. That was part one.
The second scenario: The landscape quickly morphed into a school-like setting, beside a swimming pool (perhaps it’s my exposure to the ACJC Swimathon that did it). Free fruit juices were available and I ordered a mango drink. It was very refreshing. As some of us sat by the poolside watching the competition, a schoolgirl (who was, disturbingly, dressed in an RGS pinafore – maybe it was my HP Alumni talk in January that triggered this :P), came up and sipped the drink in my hand!!
As I didn’t know who she was, I protested, and used the excuse that I had mouth ulcers (which was true) and she shouldn’t be sharing drinks with me. She responded by saying, “I’m using my own straw”. As she continued sipping from my drink, another of her friends came along (also in RGS uniform), took out her straw and both quickly sipped their way until half the drink was gone. At which point I thought enough was enough, and told both of them to stop nipping my drink. Of course, they were not happy, but I didn’t care what they thought. It’s my drink! Go get their own. [Disclaimer: I have nothing against RGS girls! This is just a dream! :P]
Shortly after that, I woke up and realised that God was perhaps testing me in theory, so I could reinforce my actions in practice. So far, in real life, enforcing my boundaries within reason has resulted in the other parties (so used to me being compliant) being unpleasantly surprised, realising that they can no longer take advantage of me. Initial reactions were harsh and, for want of a better word, reactive. But so far, I haven’t been bothered again. In fact, these people have become nicer to me now.
My dreams were very realistic and I think I’d behave that way in real life, too. I just need more practice enforcing my limits and be more confident about it. If not, the only person who suffers will be me.


  1. QOH

    Setting boundaries can be difficult but will educate the other about what u can or cannot accept – otherwise they will suck life out of you and keep pushing and pushing to get what they want , till there is nothing left of you (and the original you that they have come to love and enjoy).
    I am still learning to be the setter (of my own) and observer of (other people’s) boundaries – tough, but practicing it will be better for everyone.
    Not directly related but somewhat applicable – proverb : ‘Good fences make good neighbours’ (respect of property, putting up walls to protect – but sometimes these are walls we need to tear down too).

  2. py

    Setting reasonable boundaries can be helpful. It helps quite a bit for me. I am more able to spend time on the things that matter.
    May you find the work-life balance that you have been seeking.

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