Boundary setting with Julie Mirliss, LMSW

In this episode, Claire interviews Flourish mindset coach Julie about what boundaries are, who they're for, and how to set them.

Show Notes
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Claire Siegel: Hello, and welcome back to the Flourish podcast. I am so delighted to be here with you and a very special guest from the Flourish team. I have Julie, our mindset coach, here with me. Welcome, Julie, to the podcast!

Julie Mirliss: Yay! Thank you so much, Claire. I am honored to be here.

Claire Siegel: Well, the honor is all mine. So before we get into today's topic, which is very much of the time and of the season, will you give us an understanding for those listening, who aren't members and who have perhaps maybe never worked with a mindset coach... what do you, as our mindset coach, do inside of Flourish, and how do you support our members? What are kind of some of the common topics that you help them tackle?

Julie Mirliss: Yeah, absolutely. So generally speaking as a coach at Flourish, we get to lead group calls every week and we also get to work individually with our members in one-on-one coaching.

And specifically as a mindset coach, some of the topics that I get to cover range from, you know, really looking at mind work with limiting beliefs, maybe black and white thinking and any, any thinking that could just be holding us back and we're getting in the way of ourselves, too.

And it can also range from body image and the emotions and thoughts that come up with body image and really getting to work through a lot of what comes up when healing your relationship with food and your body.

Claire Siegel: I love it. Yeah. The way that we, you know, coach in Flourish is certainly different from, I think, what a lot of people have experienced prior to joining the membership.

And we have... you already met—if you've been listening to the podcast—you already met Elizabeth, our nutrition coach, and now we have Julie here. And the way I like to kind of help people understand like that relationship... because the work that you and Elizabeth do I like to think of it as kind of like a Venn diagram, right?

There's certain topics that, you know, our members go and seek nutrition coaching support, and then there are certain topics in which our members go and seek mindset coaching support, and then there's a whole bunch of stuff in the middle. Um, but the way I always like to kind of help frame it up is before you're putting any, you know, food inside your mouth or anything like that, you are having a thought.

Sometimes it's conscious. Sometimes it's unconscious. Sometimes it's a thought that's like rooted, you know, way back in your history and, and all that. And that's what the, the mindset coach support is, is there to help you first bring awareness to, and then kind of figure out, okay, is this serving me? And if not, how do I choose something else? So, love that.

How did you get here, Julie? Give us, yeah, give us like the personal meets professional background.

Julie Mirliss: Yeah, absolutely. So personally speaking, you know, as a woman in this world, I think it would be impossible to not have a relationship with food and our bodies. And so I, you know, definitely have just a complicated one.

And you know, when I was on diets a lot of my life, there was a lot of disordered eating, and eventually was able to get to a place where I really confronted my relationship with food and my body. I was able to work through it, get to this place now where I feel really confident around food with my body, and able to help others find their own healing too.

And professionally speaking, I went to school for social work. I got my master's in social work. And since then, I've been pretty much working exclusively with women or individuals who either struggle with disordered eating or eating disorders. And that's been my specialty and my focus.

I find it to be incredibly challenging work, but also incredibly rewarding at times when there are these breakthroughs and seeing these individuals really come to peace with food and their bodies.

And honestly, at that point started living their lives really in incredible ways.

Claire Siegel: Absolutely. We have some just incredible client stories, member stories, and what's amazing is that, especially with Julie, you know, a lot of our members will come in with like a very specific kind of issue or challenge with food or body image.

And then once that's resolved or in a better place, there's like a whole other host of things that come up in conversations with Julie, whether it's about relationships or career changes or things like that. Because once that, once you experienced that freedom from food and body stuff, you, you have like the mental and emotional capacity to start handling other things that are coming up in life which is super cool.

Julie Mirliss: Yeah. A hundred percent. Getting the space to, you know, live your life for more than food and your body is truly amazing.

Claire Siegel: I love it. Okay. So we wanted to bring Julie on, because of course she is just an integral part of the team and, and of course our member experience, but we wanted to bring her on specifically at this time of year to talk about boundaries because the holidays are upon us.

We are four days out from Christmas. We've got New Year's coming up. And for many of us this means, you know, spending time with family or away from family, um, with, with loved ones, perhaps with people that we don't see a ton. Um, and the need for boundaries can be very high, especially around this time.

So why don't we kind of just start there with how you, Julie, would define boundaries. Both in terms of what boundaries are and also what boundaries maybe are not.

Julie Mirliss: Yeah, so really to simplify it for everyone listening. Boundaries simply are needs we set, either between you and yourself or you and others. And they are subjective and do not need to be justified to anyone as long as they are about prioritizing what is in your best interest, they are justified.

And to speak to kind of what a boundary is not, I would say a boundary, you know, really isn't coming from a place of selfishness. It's also not about changing the other person, which can be the hardest thing to really wrap our heads around too. And you know, it's also has nothing to do with necessarily how bad a behavior is. So, like I said, it's subjective.

And to me it might really make sense and really be something I need, and to someone else, they just might not understand it. But I think we have to kind of keep coming back to what our intention is when setting the boundary and feeling, you know, a hundred percent justified in that.

Claire Siegel: So for those of us who are perhaps not as comfortable setting boundaries, we don't have maybe as much practice, we're not as familiar with kind of the concept of boundaries... it can feel, it can feel harsh.

And I think part of that is because there is this idea that boundaries are selfish, which you mentioned, or, or that they're controlling and that, you know, kind of by way of that, that boundaries don't feel healthy. So what do you say to someone who's maybe kind of like grappling with that tension?

Julie Mirliss: Yeah. Well, as a, I like to say recovering people pleaser, I definitely used to find boundaries to be really selfish and controlling and like, I didn't have a right to set a boundary with someone else. Um, but you know, I think that if you think prioritizing, you know, your wellbeing and your best interest is selfish, then in some way, boundary setting could be thought of as selfish.

However, I think inherently in the definition of selfishness, it would have to be that you are kind of lacking consideration of those that you are kind of setting the boundary with. And so while yes, you're prioritizing your wellbeing and you know, you're, I'd say mental health as well, I wouldn't say that inherently, you are lacking consideration for others. I would actually say you are considering others and your relationship with that person, because you're trying to make sure it's sustainable.

And likely if you feel a need to set a boundary, something about that dynamic is not feeling great. It might be feeling exhausting or frustrating, or you might even be getting some resentment from that relationship, you know, unintentionally where you're having that thought of, you know, something needs to change and a boundary could be kind of the perfect solution.

Claire Siegel: I love that. What do you, what do you see, um, in terms of how boundaries affect relationships?

Julie Mirliss: Yeah, I think I see, you know, a range of both great things and maybe more negative outcomes as well. Because when setting a boundary again, you're noticing something in the relationship isn't feeling great, so there is a need for change in some way.

And so I think setting that boundary can really shine light to you and that person of what's not working. And how that can affect that relationship is, you know, one, that person may not understand, you know, why you're setting the boundary, why you need that too. And they might be upset and that could impact, you know, whether that relationship continues or how they feel about the relationship, how you feel about that person too.

However, I think in a positive sense, boundary setting can make that relationship so much more sustainable because likely you're going to get back the capacity that you are missing. And that person will really value that you're respecting your needs and your time and conserving your energy and able to show up to that relationship in a much better way where you're getting that authentic person at their kind of full capacity to give that to that relationship too.

Claire Siegel: Yeah, as you're kind of sharing this, like I keep thinking that if you set a boundary kind of in the right way and with the right intentions and perhaps there are, we could maybe dig into ways to not set a boundary. Um, but again, assuming that your setting a boundary for you and that you're communicating it in a way that is respectful and well-intentioned and things like that. The setting of the boundary is an incredible opportunity for the person on the other side of the boundary to, to show you who they are.

Julie Mirliss: Exactly.

Claire Siegel: And you get to decide what to do with that information, right? I think setting a boundary with someone can be very challenging, and when someone meets you with respect and, you know, honoring that boundary that can have such a positive impact on the relationship.

And if the opposite is true, then that can also help you understand where to place that relationship in your life. And even though that might be hard and challenging, that doesn't necessarily mean it's bad, right? Because do you really want to be in relationship or in close relationship with someone who can't respect your boundaries? Probably not.

Julie Mirliss: A hundred percent. Something I always say is even if something feels easier—in this case may be not setting a boundary and just, you know, putting your head down and going, going through the motions, it doesn't mean it's ultimately better for you to not do that hard thing.

Claire Siegel: Totally. Yeah. We often talk about kind of like short-term versus long-term inside of Flourish. And, and a lot of the things that we do, um, or that we know that we quote unquote should do or actually should do... and especially, you know, when we're talking about boundaries, things like that... in the short-term, it feels really challenging and feels difficult. But in the long-term it's going to pay back in, in spades. So yeah, I, I hear that.

So how can I, or how can someone listening, tell if a boundary is needed?

Julie Mirliss: So in thinking of, you know, when would be a good time to set a boundary, I think we can think of it in two ways, whether you're setting a boundary for yourself, just with yourself or with other people, it might look different.

So think when setting a boundary with someone else, you're probably noticing that something feels either activating, difficult, or kind of triggering an emotional reaction that doesn't feel good. Something's uncomfortable. You're noticing that, and you're kind of wondering how to navigate that too.

So I think that is the first step, really identifying that something isn't feeling right, and something isn't feeling good and change could be helpful.

And I think in thinking of boundaries setting with yourself, it's potentially noticing something similar, right? Something's not feeling great. Or really, I think you're noticing that your own capacity is lower than usual. You don't necessarily have the same energy to show up for yourself or, you know, maybe losing interest or losing focus in kind of everyday tasks as well.

And I think that some of that could also be true for when thinking of boundaries with others, right? How is your capacity? How is your energy? What's feeling difficult?

Claire Siegel: I totally hear that. I was thinking about... I love the concept of setting a boundary with yourself. I think that is a really powerful tool. I was thinking in my head, like what boundaries have I set with myself recently?

And also it's really interesting is that sometimes when you have a boundary set with yourself, you can also kind of socialize that boundary. So for example, I have a boundary set with myself that I get off screens and certainly work-related screens.

So like this giant computer I'm sitting in front of by 8 pm. And I have to also set that same boundary with Jon, my husband, who works inside a Flourish to say like, it's, screens off, work off at 8 pm. And that like mutual kind of shared boundary is, is really powerful, and it helps actually uphold it.

And so that's like kind of a, that's an evergreen boundary year round, but what are some examples of boundaries that, you know, one might set with others or might set with themselves that would be really useful around the holidays, especially as it pertains to like food and body?

Julie Mirliss: I think, you know, identifying probably before the holiday interaction happens, you know, what you are anticipating is going to be difficult. You know, is someone they're likely to make a comment about your body? Or will there likely be a lot of diet talk? You know, what, what diet everyone is on now or about to start in the new year.

So I think first intentionally kind of setting, sitting down with yourself and kind of having that internal conversation of... what am I worried about? What am I feeling anxious about? And what can I do about that?

And then, you know, some boundaries could be, and I think it is important to say again that these are subjective and what's gonna work for you is not necessarily going to work for everyone. And also really just starting where you're comfortable.

So, you know, one example could be kind of verbalizing the boundary of diet talk comes up or a comment is made about your body and you kind of verbally say, you know, I do not want comments being made about my body. I don't want to talk about diets. I'm working on a different relationship with food and my body, and if this conversation is going to continue, I have to walk away. I have to leave the room, whatever it is. So that can be, I think, a very strong and clear boundary to set.

However, if you're not ready necessarily for something like that, maybe you want something that feels more comfortable or safer, even simply kind of just telling yourself beforehand... if diet talk comes up, if anyone comments on your body, you can be silent. That could be the best boundary for you.

You don't have to respond. You don't always have to feel like you need to be the advocate in that situation. And so maybe, you know, just being quiet, maybe taking space out of the room without making it known why, why you're taking space could be the best way to really protect yourself and your wellbeing.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. I love the idea of really priming yourself for that and not allowing yourself to be surprised when diet talk comes up or if your aunt Linda comments on your body every single time you come home for the holidays... I'm sorry, but this is probably not going to be the year that she doesn't make a comment.

And so rather than just like spending, you know, this energy here, we're on December 21st, if you're going home on the 24th, let's say. Like, spend the next three days thinking about, "What am I going to do when aunt Linda makes a comment about my body?" Rather than like, "Oh, I really hope this is the year that aunt Linda's has made a comment about my body." Like probably not going to happen.

Maybe, maybe she... maybe she won't this year, that's fine. If that's the case, great. You will have prepared in advance. And that is probably going to be what is, what is best for you and recognizing like, predicting... how do I want to respond? What does my, how does my best self respond when someone makes a comment about my body? Or when everyone is talking about the diet that they're going to start in January, how do I want to show up for myself?

Julie Mirliss: Yeah. And you know, yeah, worst case nothing happens. But best case you have a toolkit ready. And you have prepared ahead of time and kind of have that armor going into the situation with... I'm ready to protect myself if and when needed.

Claire Siegel: Totally. You touched on a framework, I think, or something that could be used as a framework for setting boundaries with other people. And I just want to make sure that I basically heard this correctly.

Because what you touched on early, very early in our conversation around, you know, the purpose of boundaries and what boundaries aren't you said that boundaries aren't about changing other people. Boundaries are for you, right?

And so this kind of framework that you laid out around... if you do this, then I will "X". And that's the key part, right? Is recognizing that the person on the other side of the boundary still has complete and total freedom around their thoughts, their feelings, their actions, but what you've made clear is what your response will be.

Did I pick up on, on that kind of framework correctly?

Julie Mirliss: Yeah, a hundred percent. I think that is kind of the key idea of boundaries. It's not just making it known, you know, that either you feel uncomfortable or, you know, something is not working for you. But really, you know what you're willing to kind of follow through with. Ending the conversation, walking away from the conversation, not participating in it.

And you know, you've really one setting the boundary want to feel... if not a hundred percent, at least most of the time that you can follow through with the boundary. Because if not then to the other person, they're not going to take it so seriously.

You know, maybe they hear that you're uncomfortable, but don't see you walking away or, you know, taking any action to prove that. So they might kind of continue on in their behavior because you have not made it clear that they have to stop it too.

Claire Siegel: Yeah, I think that can be one of the hardest parts about—it's hard to set a boundary, but it's oftentimes even more difficult to follow through on a boundary because, again, that fear comes in around... am I making other people uncomfortable? Um, do I look dramatic? We would just worry a lot about how we'll be perceived or how we'll make other people feel.

But I think it's really important to recognize that if there is a need for a boundary and you either aren't setting it or you aren't following through on, you know, how you're going to react when that boundary is violated, the only person that's negatively impacted in that scenario is you. And that's the whole point of setting boundaries is to make sure that your needs are being met.

Julie Mirliss: Yeah. A hundred percent. And kind of going off of that I think out of protection for ourselves, you know, we often do think of worst case scenario.... that person will be really disappointed. They'll be mad at us. It'll end the relationship. But often, you know, we're catastrophizing their reactions when I'd say most of the time if they are really your loved ones, they will understand.

They will respect your needs and your decisions. And they will try to support you even if they don't understand too.

So know that, you know, catastrophizing is really out of protection for yourself, but coming back to, you know, your intentions are good. We're still not sure what the impact is going to be, but it likely won't be as bad as you think.

Claire Siegel: Absolutely. And I think that's another, I think, common misconception around boundary setting is... we think that setting a boundary needs to be this like difficult, serious conversation. Like, okay, let's have a sit down talk and I'm going to set a hard boundary.

Right? But there's like, you never hear soft boundaries, you always hear it's a hard boundary. Right? But I think tone and like your choice of language matters when you're setting a boundary.

And saying like, "Listen, I know your intentions are good. Like I know when you comment and you asked me if I've lost weight, like I know you mean it as a compliment and I so appreciate it. And it's not particularly helpful in the, you know, part of the journey that I'm in. So I would love it. If instead you commented on the energy I bring into the room, or if you compliment my dish that I brought.=," or whatever.

I think there's helpful ways of setting boundaries, ways that help the person on the other side of the boundary, not feel on the defensive and help them learn. Right? Help them learn how you do want them to react. Right? And how you do want them to behave in response to you. Does that make sense?

Julie Mirliss: A hundred percent of makes sense. Yeah. I think, you know, the relationship best, right? How is that person going to receive it best? Maybe you come in with a lighter attitude about it. Like, "Hey, I know, I know you love complimenting this or talking about diets, but really it's just not helpful, and like, that's just not working for me anymore." Or however you want to say it.

And I think definitely working with that person to, you know, receive the boundary and help them understand is helpful. And, you know, I think a lot of the pressure falls on the person setting the boundary to really do it in the right way and make it super clear, you know, what it is that they want. But I also think, you know, we have to consider how to receive a boundary.

You know, when someone else sets that boundary, what is an appropriate and helpful response? You know, in your mind, it might be, "Why are they doing this? That doesn't make sense to me. I don't want to respect that." But outwardly right, showing that respect, showing that understanding and allowing them to meet their needs, whatever that means too.

Claire Siegel: That is really interesting. We could do like a whole other podcast episode about being on the receiving end of a boundary. That is, that's interesting... that's an interesting one.

Okay. I have two questions for you. One is... and this is kind of around like just the practicalities of setting a boundary, because I'm thinking about our listeners here. We're again, we're like three, four days away from the holiday season. And I just want to make sure that, you know, we're adequately, uh, supporting them as they, as they get into it.

So what are your thoughts—because having these conversations in real time face-to-face can be really difficult. So what are your thoughts on like preempting, let's say a holiday dinner by texting your mom or sister-in-law and saying, "Hey, just so you know, before this meal *insert boundary here.* What do you think about doing that kind of preemptively and honestly like with a little bit of that digital, um, strength?

Julie Mirliss: Yeah, I absolutely love that idea. I think taking action always feels better than not taking action.

And if you know yourself and in that moment your nerves might get the best of you, or, you know, it's, there's a lot of people there and it doesn't really feel appropriate to make a big statement out loud too. Definitely texting or having that conversation beforehand, probably coming from a place where you're feeling, you know, mentally and emotionally at a more rational state to really have an articulate conversation with someone I think will always... if you know, most of the time, just feel good for you to take that action.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. Okay, y'all. So that's, that's a hot tip. If you're kind of freaking out about how to set a boundary at... on Christmas Eve dinner or something, do it now. Just send a text in advance.

Like, "Hey FYI, not having diet talk this year. And if you want to have diet talk, totally fine, totally up to you, but I will just excuse myself." And you can prime the friends and family members that you're going to see over the holidays with, with that. So that's a pro tip. Okay.

So my other question—and I think I've done this before with my family members, like my close family members. I'm curious, what are your thoughts on like having someone set a boundary for you?

And what I mean by that is... let's say I didn't feel necessarily comfortable telling my extended family that I don't want to talk about diets. I don't want to talk about bodies this year. But like maybe like my sister or my mom could kind of do it on my behalf.

Um, or if, you know, let's say you just went through a breakup or you lost a job or something there's sensitive subject matter that you just don't want to have to touch during the holiday season. Can I pass that kind of message along to my mom, my sister, whoever the case may be to pass it along to the broader group? And is that, is that a way of forming and setting a boundary?

Julie Mirliss: Yeah, I think so. I think if you feel like you're the one that is articulating what you want and giving that kind of, um, guidance clearly to, you know, this person to tell this person... if that all feels in your control and you feel okay about that, I think however you set the boundary. And if that works for you, great. Right?

If it's looking out for your best interests, I don't really care how the boundary gets communicated to that person. So a hundred percent, right? If it's feeling like it is going to be helpful... if it feels too overwhelming to have to communicate that to someone else, yeah. pass the, you know, pass the baton to someone you feel like can best support you in that.

Claire Siegel: I love that. Okay. So y'all, so if you're sitting here thinking like, I cannot have all these hard conversations on Christmas day, or, you know, whatever the case may be, New Year's Eve. You can text in advance, communicate that way. You can, you know, be thoughtful in how you write it. Sometimes, I don't know, I often feel that I write better than I talk, so that can be helpful.

Or again, recruiting someone who's very close to you who has your best interest in mind to help circulate your boundary to a broader group that can also make it so that you don't spend the entire holiday season just talking about your boundaries and your needs, and you can actually focus on having a nice time.

Julie Mirliss: Yes. Please do that.

Claire Siegel: Is there anything else that we didn't touch on as it pertains to boundaries? Anything that you want our listeners to take home with them?

Julie Mirliss: I think I'll just drive home that boundaries come from a place of self-love. It is looking out for yourself and your needs. And again, boundaries are not about changing someone else as upsetting as that might be to hear, you know, kind of trusting that this boundaries about you and not the other person. Um, and as always just offer yourself that unlimited self-compassion inthis and boundary setting overall.

Because even if you set that boundary, it might be hard to follow through with it a hundred percent of the time, but if you don't just use that as an opportunity to grow and stay curious. What made it difficult to either follow through with that boundary? And get to know what's going to help you most next time too.

Claire Siegel: I love that. Well, Julie, thank you so much for joining me on the pod today. I appreciate you for being here for it. We had a number of technical difficulties, but we made it. Um, and I am wishing you Julie and everyone listening happy holidays, happy new year. And we'll see you in the next episode!

Julie Mirliss: Thank you so much. Happy holidays everyone.

Claire Siegel: Bye y'all.

Claire Siegel:

Thank you so much for joining me for today's episode of the Flourish podcast. If you enjoyed it, please take a second to leave us a five-star review or better yet, share it with a friend. And if you're ready to start your own journey to get healthy for good with accountability from expert coaches and the support of an incredible community, head to the show notes to get started on your Flourish journey.

I'll see you in the next episode.

Headshot of Claire Siegel
Claire Siegel
Co-founder, CEO
Claire Siegel is the founder and CEO of Flourish. Claire has made it her life’s mission to help women create a sustainable approach to their physical and mental well-being.
Headshot of Julie Mirliss
Julie Mirliss
Licensed therapist
Julie is a LCSW with the goal of helping women heal their relationship with food and their body and realign themselves with their values and inner wisdom.

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