What It Means to Hold Boundaries, Even When We’re Disappointing Others

July 7, 2022

A big part of our growth is knowing our limitations. 

Sounds ironic, I know. 

But setting boundaries is one of the areas we often struggle with most, for one simple reason: we hate disappointing others.

Truth is, we’re not always going to have the energy or capacity for everyone who wants access to us all the time. And the more we deplete our energy trying to be everything to everyone, the more we lose small pieces of ourselves.

Knowing and communicating your personal limitations not only makes life easier on you, it benefits everyone around you. Because believe it or not, people are usually way more understanding than you think. 

Here, I’m teaching how to confidently start to hold boundaries and prioritize yourself without the guilt and shame of letting others down.

Everybody wins, especially you.

In this episode, we’re talking about:

  • Why we hurt so much when we can’t hold others’ pain
  • The damage to everyone caused by stretching beyond our limitations
  • Why identifying and admitting our limitations is awkward
  • Why boundaries sometimes inhibit us from desiring massive success
  • Why so many business owners and entrepreneurs struggle with boundaries
  • How balance is about overall average, rather than always level all the time
  • How boundaries are all about relationships
  • How to communicate our boundaries with someone we’ve lost touch with
  • How to avoid feeling guilty about past mistakes
  • Why we tend to underestimate the compassion and patience of others
  • 3 steps if you struggle with setting boundaries
  • How to prioritize your to-do list into 3 key subcategories (spoiler: you won’t even bother with category 3 and it’ll feel so good!)

Every time I talk about boundaries on Room to Grow™ it gets a ton of reaction from listeners. So let’s dive in again and let me know what you think! Send me a DM or email me anytime about where you are at with setting boundaries (contacts below).


Episode 316 | Regret Is Shame Disguised As Maturity

Episode 305 | Re-Thinking Boundaries & Becoming An Energetic Match For Your Desires

Episode 149 | The Fear Of Success Is Real: Everything Has A Price

Episode 195 | The Crushing Fears Of Both Failure & Success

Episode 277 | Are You Waiting Around To Be Chosen? (Standards, Boundaries & Expectations)

Episode 108 | How To Set Boundaries: The Key To Healthy Relationships

Episode 220 | Recognizing What Self-Betrayal Looks Like

Book: Atomic Habits by James Clear


Book a private coaching call with Emily to work together.

Your FREE 15-page foundational guide Where Do We Begin.

Jump on the waitlist for Becoming YOU, my 6 week women’s group coaching program re-launching Tuesday, July 12.

Men’s group coaching program coming in August 2022 – waitlist here.

Instagram: @emilygoughcoach


Emily Gough Coaching

Room to Grow Podcast

Podcast Producer: Adam Liefl

Episode Transcript:

Hey, welcome back to the Room to Grow podcast and today’s episode. We’re going to be talking about, well, this is so every time I come up with an episode talking about boundaries, in any sense of the word, it seems to hit a chord for people hard. Those are often the episodes that I get tons of comments about people saying that it resonated a lot.

Maybe even like more downloads, sometimes like anything to do with boundaries seems to really get people’s gears going. And I get it because this is, this is a tough one. And I’m going to give some specific examples in this episode of times when our hearts may hurt, because someone else feels like they don’t matter to us in moments when we don’t have the capacity to be there for them to support them to,

to hold their pain. And we’re not, oh, this is something that we, that we have to recognize about ourselves. And as we recognize it about ourselves, that will often lead to greater understanding in others when other people might not have the capacity to be there for us too, because we’re not always going to have the energy or capacity for everyone that wants access to us and to our,

our skills, our energy, our emotional support, or like a long list of other things that we may possess that others can find useful or want to lean on or borough. Okay. And we can get all kinds of anxiety about feeling like we can’t be there for, for everyone. And there’s, there’s sort of this, I don’t know how else to put it,

except that it, it does it, it really can hurt your heart when it, at least that’s how I feel. It can really hurt my heart. When I feel like I can’t be there for someone who could benefit from my support. And there’s this sort of awkward that we enter into when we get more and more clear on our boundaries. And we realized that we can’t do everything and be there for every single person who would like us to be it’s uncomfortable,

it’s unsettling. And it can bring up all the feelings, including a ton of guilt. And this isn’t just about boundaries. It’s also about gaining a deeper understanding of our own capacity and of our energy and having compassion for ourselves when it might fall short of the expectations that we have for ourselves, or what am I fall short of the expectations that others project onto us.

And it really does it it’s, it’s almost painful for me sometimes when, when I feel like when, when it seems to me like anyone feels that they don’t matter to me in moments when I don’t have the capacity to hold space for them, or to hold, to hold their pain, to hold, to hold a space for them to feel supported and to make them feel seen and heard,

because really that’s what we all really want. And when I can’t give that to someone, it’s, it really hits me on a deep level. And I’ve talked about this before, but like 20, 21 was the toughest most challenging year of my life. And, and especially after the previous two years before that, like, it was just, it was a time I am a different human.

So three years ago, I’m a different human than I was at, even just like a, a couple of months ago. But there, there were some days where I could barely get out of bed because I felt so drained that I thought there must be something physically wrong with me. There, there wasn’t. I had, I had a full checkup,

but I was convinced that there must be something that was physically wrong with me. I had blood work, done everything, and nobody could find anything. And I’m like, okay, like, why am I so trained? I was so tired all the time. And I was so completely drained energetically because I hadn’t even realized at that time how much it was taking from me to output constantly given how highly empathic and sensitive I am and I wasn’t paying attention.

And I didn’t have as many, nearly as many tools as I do now to manage my own energy in the unique ways that I go about it now. And as a result of that feeling so drained, energetically and everything else, there were people I left behind and it wasn’t because I didn’t care, but because I didn’t have the energy to be able to hold more.

And there, there were, and there, there have been moments where I have held a lot of shame around that. A lot of shame to the point where I went down a bit of a shame spiral several times and avoided reaching out to people that I cared about altogether for, for even longer than I already avoided answering them or reaching out to them because I was already so stressed that I knew had,

had taken way longer for me to reach out to them than it already should have. And then it just snowballed, like it would just get worse and worse and then I’d get more and more stressed and go down even more of a shame spiral. And it just continued. And I have like really specific examples, both of my own, and of there’s a client example I’m going to give and stuff is something that a client of mine was experiencing as well,

that I’m going to give to sort of like give you a full picture of this, but it is so tough to maintain boundaries sometimes. Like, can we just acknowledge that? I mean, yes, we, we know that logically, but really when push comes to shove, we are deeply reminded of how fucking hard it can be sometimes. And here here’s one example,

like people will, will sometimes pour their hearts out to me in the DMS. And I’ve had conversations with, with other entrepreneurs about this too, especially ones who share aspects of their personal story, quite openly and vulnerably and the both the beautiful, the incredibly beautiful, and the sometimes kind of tough part of that is when people then pour their hearts out in the DMS.

And the reason why I say it’s a little bit tough is because sometimes you aren’t always prepared for it when you open the DMS. And, you know, if a friend comes to me to have a conversation, I usually get like a heads up, you know, that something’s coming, you know, to, to a degree, like to an extent obviously,

but, or I can at least sort of like read their mood or something like that. But DMS, it’s just sort of a, you don’t really have any warning, you open it and then bam, there it is. And even if you’re not in a Headspace in that exact moment in time to be able to hold that, and I want to be there for every single person,

every single person to, to be a witness to their story or their pain, or to help them feel seen and to help ease their burden. Somehow it is truly like a gift. And, and it’s very humbling that people feel safe with me to open up. And it’s a responsibility I take really seriously. I, I, I really do feel that that’s such a gift and there’s a couple issues with this first I have to hold boundaries with,

I have to hold boundaries in general because without them I lose pieces of myself. This is one of the biggest lessons. And one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that if I don’t hold boundaries, I lose pieces of myself. And that brings up this whole wave of like self betrayal. Self-abandonment like all these things that I have deeply rooted history of doing,

and I have broken so many of those patterns that I’m not really willing to continue to go down those roads anymore. And I’ve had to work my entire to break those patterns. And I’m certain that there will continue to be times where things come up, where I’m going to have to continue to hold the line or to learn hard lessons around those things, because there’s such deeply rooted patterns,

but I’ve changed a lot from where that used to be standard for me to just betray my S my, my sense to betray myself into betray what I knew to be true, like listening to my own intuition. And additionally, in this type of like more specific instance where people are maybe seeking help for me in the DMS or, or advice or something like that,

it’s, it’s not really fair to the people who pay me for my energy, nor is it fair to my nearest and dearest inner circle that they don’t pay me for my energy, obviously, but they’re deeply important to me. And if I output all of my energy to every single person who comes into my sphere, especially, especially in the online space.

And I’m just using that as an example, because the online space is so broad, right? Like anyone can reach out to anybody at any time, which is not something that we have typically been able to do in the past. So it’s not fair to the people who pay me for my energy, and it’s not fair to, to my, the people closest to my heart.

If I give all my energy out to everyone else. And then I have nothing left to give to those people. And plus you, you also know that I’m, I’m all about like integrity and showing up with honesty and ultimately it’s dishonest to the other person and to myself to pretend that I have space in moments when I do not. And when I take on more than I can handle,

even an extra ounce of energy will feel a hundred times heavier than, than usual until I feel like I’m actually crumbling under carrying the weight of it all. And, and to be honest, like totally transparent with you, this has been one of many reasons why I have spent most of my entire five years in business fearing success just as much or more than fearing failure.

There’s a podcast episode that I did about that a couple of years ago, that is still super relevant, that I I’ll list here to check that out. But the reason why that is, is that with visibility and trust comes an enormous amount of responsibility, at least to me, and being more visible, especially in the online space, where again, when,

when you’re in the online space, it’s a free for all, like anybody can can see you. Anyone can find you, anyone can has a Google search bar, right. And being more visible can mean disappointing or letting down more people who reach out and failing to make even more people feel seen and heard. And that breaks my heart. Like, I,

I hate that. And, you know, someone asked me the other day, what’s a compliment that I received most often, and I thought about it. And the compliment that I received, which to me is, is a compliment at the highest level in, in my mind, one of the highest levels is that people tend to feel safe with me.

And I’m so deeply appreciative of that. Like, I really do consider that to be one of the highest competence anyone could ever give to me. And it’s such a gift to have the kind of presence where, where people feel safe, opening up in. And I do take that super seriously. Like I, it’s a responsibility that I cultivate. And when it comes to growing a business,

when I give too much of myself, I lose my creativity and my passion and the capacity for the work and the life that I love. I’ve been down that road more times than I can count. We’re sort of going through these, if, if I was to, to graph my energy over the last five years speaking, you know, like business-wise in particular,

it would look like an absolute roller coaster because there’ve been so many times until more recently where over and over again, I would like output so much energy in like my, my good moments. And then I wouldn’t have as nearly as many boundaries or know how to manage my energy as well as I should. And then as a result of that, I would end up so depleted that it would,

it would be like I would crash. And then I would just lose, like my creativity, my, my passion. Like I would lose all these things and, and feel like I didn’t have the energy for my work or feel like I didn’t have the energy for the people I love most even like in my personal life. And it’s an energetic balance,

and this is a constant practice. And, and it’s, it’s a practice that has started to become much more second nature to me, like much more, second nature. But I still have moments where I instinctively want to stretch myself beyond my own energetic limits in order to provide support to someone that I don’t actually have in me to give. But if I give too much in one area,

I lose myself in others. And it’s this, this constant practice in creating your own sense of balance and balance to me, doesn’t mean, you know, if, if we were, if we were looking at balance in terms of like each area of your life was represented by a cup of water. Okay. And balance, I think that we can often think of balance as being okay.

Well then every, every cup in every area of your life then has to be filled to the same degree. That’s not what balances to me, because I just don’t think that that’s realistic or even human. Instead, what balanced to me looks like is like, the cups will be at different levels at different times, but if you graphed it out over time,

again, I don’t know why I’m using graphs. I’m very not mathematically inclined. So the graphs or the visual I’m getting right now, if we grafted out over time, each cup would probably, you know, be more or less balanced out with the others. If we, if we took a more macro approach, if we kind of like zoom out a little bit,

rather than looking at the day to day, like, is, is today fully balanced in every area? Probably not is maybe this week or this month, a little bit more balanced out, hopefully more. So is this year more balanced out? Like maybe you had a few months of really heavy work and then maybe work out a little bit later, and then you had more time to spend with your family and loved ones and like a passion project or something like that.

Then over the course of that year, it would look a little bit more balanced, right. But if you only took a single day or a single week out of that year, you would probably look very out of balance. And this is what I want you to think about when, when it comes to energetic boundaries, because in my case, like the way I have to think about it is to get to where I’m going and to have the kind of impact that I want to have and to create the business,

the relationships, the life, and the version of me that I’m becoming. It all requires me to choose myself in a lot of ways. And what I mean by that is to accept my own limitations and to expand in whole new ways and to grow into the fullest expression of myself. And I can’t tell you how much I wish I could make every single person who comes in contact with me,

feel as important as I would like to do for them. And I do put huge effort into that. I will always have a smile and a kind word and all of those things, but we still have to accept some of our limitations. And, and, and that limitation might mean, then you don’t have an hour to pour into someone else when you’re already depleted.

Right? Just as one example, because if doing that and pouring out into others, if that’s something that you’re doing all the time to every single person who wants a piece of you, then it comes at the cost of, of making you feel less important to yourself than everyone else. And that’s not a price for me. That’s not a price that I can pay,

and that’s not really a price I am willing to pay at this point either. I’ve learned the hard way too many times, that when I stretch myself so far beyond my limitations, every other area of my life suffers, and it doesn’t work, it doesn’t allow me to show up in the fullest expression of myself. There’s. So I mentioned there was some examples.

I do have several examples here, because so one example of I’m not proud of this. I I’m, I’m really, I’m not proud of this. There are two friends, two different friends this past autumn that I did not communicate well with. I was distracted in my own world. I was going through a challenging time. So were they right? So were they like no question?

And I, I very inadvertently it was not intentional, but I, I very inadvertently I think made them to feel that they weren’t important to me. And it’s not how I would’ve chosen things to go. Trust me, not at all, how I would have chosen things to go. I take full responsibility for that. And I did still end up communicating with them because it’s never too late for that.

Like, we don’t do ghosting around here. Okay. No ghosting because it, it, and even if you’ve gone longer than is reasonable without communicating with someone, I truly feel that it’s never too late to communicate with them. At some point, it may be too late for the relationship to be salvaged, but always ask yourself, are there ways you can show up now in a way that you can be proud of?

Doesn’t mean you’re proud of the past versions of yourself where you maybe didn’t show up the way you wanted to, but can you be proud of how you show up now, it doesn’t change the past mistakes, nor does it mean that the relationship itself can be saved, right? Like sort of that saying too little too late, that sometimes it is going to be too little too late for particular relationships.

And I also choose to try to not live with, with regret. So how can you make that happen? That will requires you to show up a certain way. And, and I always tell people, like not doing regret doesn’t mean that you don’t learn from past mistakes. To me, it’s more a matter of reflection over regret. And it means regularly taking time for reflection and actively learning from your mistakes,

like learning from your mistakes means becoming aware of your blind spots as best you can identifying the roots and why you made those mistakes in the first place, your, your patterns like taking responsibility for yourself and showing up with changed behavior to the absolute best of your ability in the future. And it’s funny, I was, I had already put most of this episode together and I’d already had the idea for it.

I’d already made like a ton of notes. I was literally about to record it the next day. And then I had a client call a super sweet client of mine, and she works a really intense job with a lot of human interaction. Every single day. This story is shared with permission, by the way. And it’s not giving away any, any details or anything like that.

And she’s been feeling a ton of guilt and anxiety for not being able to keep up with the admin side as quickly as she would like that, like the admin side of her job and, you know, answering emails and all that type of stuff, because so much of her time is spent in the forward facing aspect of her job. And she’s super conscientious.

She doesn’t want to let anybody down. And we talked about some strategies around managing the overwhelm and how to increase in, you know, efficiency and stuff as well. But the much bigger part of the conversation was around boundaries and managing energy and setting expectations with people, because this is this ultimately about relationships, right? This is about relationships and the relationship that we have with ourself and with others.

And we live in the world of Amazon prime and it’s changed everything. Honestly, we live in an Amazon prime world and it has shifted expectations because we now expect everything immediately, instant gratification. And one of the things that I suggested to her is to communicate more like to have a conversation with people. Most, most humans are actually pretty reasonable. If you let them know your limitations and you set the expectations up front,

about how long it might take you to respond to something like an email, usually people will get it. You know, again, within reason, like if you’re taking like weeks and weeks, yeah. That’s probably going to be an issue, but if you’re still responding to them in a reasonable amount of time, just let them know because you’re, you’re a human being,

not a human doing. Like you’re not a machine. And we have to recognize our own limitations in order to be able to expand into who we are becoming. So some just really briefly some steps to take, to, to manage all this. If, if you’re someone who is also kind of just really struggling with wanting to be there for all the people and all the things and,

and everything that everyone wants from you and just feeling like you’re having a really hard time doing so without betraying yourself, the first thing I would recommend is to bring awareness to how you’re feeling and notice your energy. So this might involve noticing when your energy dips around whom your energy dips, that’s very important, which tasks might take a lot out of you and paying attention to the pressure.

You may feel either from others or self-imposed to be on like, you know what I mean on all the time, like on right? Who are the people, or what are the situations where you feel pressure to be on? The second thing is to manage your expectations of yourself and communicate those expectations and boundaries to others too. And the third thing is to simply accept that you cannot be everything to everyone and prioritize accordingly.

And that’s tough. It’s, it’s really tough to do this, but it can be absolutely life-changing. I actually saw something today. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it was something about making a list each day of when you’re talking about when you’re sort of laying out tasks and stuff that, that you, that you want to do or accomplish each day,

something like that. This was in James clear for anyone who isn’t familiar with James clear, he wrote atomic habits, which I love highly recommend that book. And I’m on his email list. And honestly, he’s one of the few emails that I always make sure to read every single week when he sends it out, because they’re awesome. He calls it like the 3, 2, 1 email,

and it’s three, three ideas from him, two quotes from others. One question that he poses to you and they’re, they’re fantastic. It’s really, really well done. So go, go to James clear as James Clear’s website and sign up for this. And one of the things that he wrote today in his quotes from other section was from writer, Janae,

Desmond Harris, and how to divide your to-do list. And she says, quote, I started dividing my to-do list into one things. I have to do two things I want to do. And three things other people want me to do. Life-changing I often don’t get to number three. And I finally realized this is what it means to have boundaries and quote,

damn like if we all started doing that, absolutely life-changing right. What are the things that other people want you to do versus the things that you have to do and the things that you want to do. So I want you to, to make a list like that for yourself and to see what comes of it. I would love to hear how this goes for you.

So let me know, send me DM over at Emily golf coach. I would love to hear it. And yeah, I’m just, I’m really excited to hear how this lands, because I think that there were just so many of us who, you know, we, no one wants to let other people down and it does, it hurts our hearts to do that,

but sometimes we have to choose ourselves. And that is what allows us to be able to show up in the fullest expression of ourselves in every other area of our life. Okay. So thank you so much for listening and we’ll be back soon. Thank you so much for listening to the podcast today. It means the absolute world to me, and I’m so grateful for any references in the episode and all show notes,

be sure to jump over to room, to grow podcast.com. And if this episode touched your heart, it would mean so much. If you would take a quick second to hit subscribe, write a review and share on social media, over someone who really needs to hear today’s message. It makes such a difference to keep this podcast going so I can continue to bring you amazing content and absolutely incredible guests.

Be sure to tag me over on Instagram at Emily golf coach, that I can thank you in real time for listening and connect with you. We’re back every Tuesday and Thursday with new episodes, and I’m looking forward to growing with you.


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