Ok…. wait. Don’t close the page. I know boundaries can be a scary word to a lot of people. We hear about the importance of putting boundaries in place… Then for some reason or another we don’t follow through with it. Why does even thinking of boundaries frighten so many of us?
It may be because some of us like to identify ourselves as “givers” or “nice people” who would do anything for anyone. This isn’t bad, but when we give to the point of being drained or we give to others till our cups are empty, then we get to a point where we start to feel bitter about it. This can happen so slowly that we don’t even realize it is happening, until you realize…
You avoid certain friends because you don’t have the energy.
You start isolating yourself from others because you’re drained.
You dread Monday morning and count down the hours till Friday afternoon.
Just say no
In our society, we are taught that we need to give selflessly to be liked. At the same time, we are taught that if we say “no”, or set boundaries, it’s selfish and rude. When you’re everything to everyone, it’s exhausting! That is why so many of us give until we burn out. We become apathetic and give out of obligation instead of desire. This is a very soul sucking place to be! The thought of saying no to friends and family, the mere mention of taking time for yourself rather than being selfish is overwhelming, especially if we have dedicated our lives to being everything to everyone. I call it a “giving addict.” We feel that we will be seen as selfish, friends will abandon us and that we are not good enough. The negative dialogue takes over. We muster the strength and continue to give more and more and betray ourselves more and more.
How I recovered as a giving addict
Hindsight is 20/20! I was like this with my family and friends, but especially with my career. Often I chose to allow my work to dictate my life. I would leave my work cell on and respond to clients’ calls in the evenings and on the weekends. There would be days where I would realize when I got home that I hadn’t eaten or taken a break all day. But I continued to do it again the next day. My ego would say “my clients need me…I have to be there for them. What kind of worker am I if I’m not available?” Most evenings I would be so exhausted, I would crash on the couch trying to recuperate, and weekends were a write-off, I was too worn out to do anything. I needed to recharge!
My wakeup call came too late! When my husband passed, I started to see all the things I had missed out on. He always wanted to do things on the weekend…. take little excursions, go camping, socialize with friends and family or go on dates. I was always too tired and burned out from my work that the thought of having fun… just seemed like more work!
I missed these opportunities and special times with my husband because I was not able to set boundaries around work. I learned and I now know how important boundaries are!
Not only did I lose out, I also robbed my clients of the chance to figure things out on their own. I stole from them the opportunity to grow and learn. So really it was a lose-lose! Now I have boundaries in place, I take care of myself, I honour my feelings and I do things because I want to, rather than feeling obligated to (most of the time) and I have people in my life that support those boundaries!
You can have this too!
All it takes is total honesty with yourself about what you will and will not accept. You need to feel good about putting boundaries in place. This is definitely a process. Our culture has deeply ingrained the need to please in us. It takes awareness, patience and a lot of self-love to get through to the other side of a boundary-friendly life. When you do start moving in this direction, you’ll be rewarded! You will regain energy, love yourself more, and people will offer more support than you envisioned! Sounds good, right?
The first step is awareness. Recognize where in your life you need boundaries. Where do you give too much of yourself? Listen to your internal voice and determine whether you feel motivated by “should do” or “have to do”. If you feel heavy and dreadful, then these are good clues that you need boundaries in place. There are some things in life that we choose to do because they need to be done, (i.e. laundry or dishes for me). These become the exceptions to your boundary rules.
Ready to take that first step?
Get with yourself and recognize where you are betraying yourself and giving out of obligation or guilt Start valuing yourself and get ready to set some boundaries.
Get TSW Life Coaching’s free printable boundaries cheat sheet here!