Welcome back! I’m glad to see you again.
In our exploration of self-care, we can talk about lots of external factors. Getting some exercise and good sleep are fabulous ways to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself takes on many different forms. It also includes doing some internal work as well. This can include setting boundaries.
Looking inward can be a painful experience for a lot of us. There are demons in there that we would rather not rile up too badly on a given day. At the same time, these same demons plague us all the time. Why shouldn’t we take some initiative and get the upper hand for a change?
One way we can begin to take charge is by setting healthy boundaries. Boundaries can be described as a limit you place on yourself and others to keep you safe and healthy. There are personal boundaries, with family and friends, and work boundaries. They are part of establishing your identity and a way of showing compassion and kindness to yourself.
The Walking Dead
To be a better person, I decided to examine my personal boundaries. Depression has managed to make me believe that I was not worth having any good limits in my life. As a result, I was being pulled in every direction. I constantly had demands placed upon me that I didn’t want anything to do with. It was literally killing me. I was drained mentally and physically by the number of tasks that I had taken on because I couldn’t say no.
It was impossible for me to turn down a request.
Did I want to play bus driver so that the local children could get to their church activities? Nope.
Did I want to take on more roles in my church because no one else was stepping up? Of course not.
Did I want to be bothered with taking on extra assignments at work? Absolutely not.
Did I want to be burdened with all of the housework when my husband’s work schedule got crazy? Goodness no.
Despite my reluctance, I took on all these things and more. I foolishly worked myself to the bone just to make other people happy. To feel like I was helping. To feel something period.
Meanwhile, I was a zombie internally.
The disadvantages of not having healthy boundaries are apparent in my story. The common consequences of extra stress, financial burden, wasted time, and relationship issues haunted me like a specter. My emotional wellness had taken a backseat to being a people pleaser and I was falling apart as a result. I didn’t live for myself, opting instead to shamble along as I rotted inside.
My example might resonate with some of you. Here’s what I did to address my problem.
What to Do?
The first step to fixing a problem is to recognize it, right?
I had a lot of help with this. Regular conversations with my therapist allowed me to see the ways my helpful nature was killing me slowly. The first step was to decide what I really wanted and to set limits.
If I were tired, I wouldn’t agree to do things after work.
If I didn’t want to help out at work, I wouldn’t agree to do extra tasks.
If I didn’t want to do something, I wouldn’t. And I didn’t need to explain myself to anyone.
These little boundaries may not seem like much, but they were huge for me. Learning to say no when I wanted was a real struggle in the beginning but if I believed that I was worth the effort to love and defend myself, it had to be done.
It was hard to come to terms with at first. Wasn’t my ability to come through for others why so many people liked me? Wouldn’t putting my foot down drive people away? Isn’t that exactly what I didn’t want?
The answer to all those questions was yes. I had to learn that I didn’t want everyone to have access to my energy anyway.
Beware the Vampire
Another piece of setting healthy boundaries is to be clear about your needs to yourself and others.
There are people in society that will use every ounce of energy you have. Those who will take and take and take until you have nothing left. Then, once the well is dry, ask you what your problem is. I’m sure you know of an energy vampire; we all come across them from time to time.
A romantic partner.
They have many faces, but they will drain the life out of you and keep it pushing. When you are at your limit and are asking for help, they will disappear like fog in the morning sunlight. Some will even hurt your feelings on their way out the door. The first task in setting boundaries with others is to get these people out of your life.
How? Tell them no.
Vampires can’t get into your house unless you invite them in according to the lore. So, stop letting them in. Once I identified the problem, I had to stop giving in.
This is the hardest thing. It took all of my courage and mental fortitude to start saying no; to start standing up for myself. I didn’t want to be everything for everyone anymore. I wanted to be someone for me.
It didn’t go well at first.
There were arguments and protesting. The worst part was the guilt. I wasn’t ready for that.
“Who will do insert menial task if you don’t?”
“What about mind numbing job?”
I felt terrible for sticking to my newly established boundaries. It hurt to be called unreliable and untrustworthy.
But those were the lies of an energy vampire. They need you to remain accessible to feast upon. Take away that access and it’s an issue.
When boundaries are violated, one can feel overwhelmed, angry, and resentful. You have the right to confront those who violate your boundaries. You have to face those demons and cast them out of your space. It may be difficult, but you are worth it. Reset your boundaries and end the relationship if need be.
One needs to look no further for an example of maintaining healthy boundaries that our newly minted Queen of self-care, tennis player Naomi Osaka.
Osaka stopped speaking with the press after her matches citing the journalists’ general disregard for the mental health of athletes. As a result, the player was fined $15,000 by the French Open for her actions. That was bad enough and she would have paid the fine and continued to participate in the tournament. To add insult to injury, The French Open threatened Osaka with expulsion from the tournament for refusing to speak with the press.
A few days later, this queen withdrew from the tournament on her own. In a twitter statement, Osaka stated that speaking with the press was terrible for her anxiety and depression. That was why she didn’t want to do it anymore. She said that her withdrawing from the tournament would return the focus to the sport of tennis. That was not the case.
People are applauding her for maintaining her boundary. She set a limit and stuck with it. It might have cost her financially and another potential Grand Slam title, but I believe that Osaka is satisfied with her decision to stay away from tennis for a while.
The advantages of good boundary setting include good mental and emotional health, as well as a better developed autonomy and sense of self. You can avoid burnout in relationships or careers too. Enforced boundaries make you feel strong, confident, and happy. You can make a better way for yourself by setting better limits.
Do you have trouble with setting boundaries? Are there any people in your life that you need to have a difficult conversation with? Are you more aware of any vampires lurking around your back stair? Let me know in the comments!
Setting boundaries is hard but you can do it.
In case no one has told you that they love you today, I love you.
You got this!