The Art of Boundaries
If I’m not careful, I can give too much of myself to the people I care about. What this means is that I have a desire to ‘show up’ in ways where I extend support to people who I determine may need it, to the extent in which I harm myself. I’m mostly speaking about emotional support, since that’s the area where I like to show up best. Now, doing this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, supporting those you love and care for is essential for healthy relationships. However, I’m learning the hard way that there is great importance in establishing personal boundaries in terms of what I’m willing or capable of dishing out.
I’m a people pleaser.
I like to make people feel good. It brings me great joy and satisfaction in knowing that I can do something that creates comfort and/or happiness. That’s all well and good, except for when I put their well-being above my own.
The issue with this is that I can find myself in situations where I want to give and give to people without getting much in return. The harmful part isn’t that I’m not getting anything back necessarily; rather, it stems from the effects of me pulling from my own energy and giving it to others. Therefore, I find myself in a state of emotional tiredness because I’m lacking in my own resources.
Running on empty with a long way to go.
The awful thing about giving too much and ending up without personal resources is that I’m then unable to do the thing I love doing - showing up for people. Or if I do, it’s kind of half-ass and I feel irritable. Even worse still, I’m unable to show up for myself.
So what’s a person to do? Well, determining what your limits are is a pretty good place to start. It’s a bit of an experiment figuring out where your boundaries are located and it can be different day-to-day and person-to-person. That’s very okay. I find that when I’ve reached a limit with someone, I’m tired, more irritable, and kind of apathetic. When I get to this point I know it’s time to start creating some boundaries.
How is it done? It an honestly take many shapes and forms. If you feel that you’re giving a lot of emotional energy to a friend, you could decide to limit the amount of time you have with them or the amount of virtual contact. You can practice saying ‘no’ when someone hits you up for a favour if you feel like you’re running low on energy. You can prioritize time alone or doing activities you value. It’s just about finding what feels good for you.
No one will know or respect your boundaries if you don’t voice them.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I need to communicate my boundaries to others. If I don’t, its likely that someone will unknowingly cross one, which will in turn make me unnecessarily upset and cost more emotional energy in the long run. A good way to avoid that is to be straight up. If you need distance from someone, chat with them about it. If someone has done something that hurts you, let them know how their actions have affected you. When there’s an open dialogue between implicated persons, there’s room for understanding and clarity.
Boundaries don’t have to be strict or permanent, but they should certainly be respected. When there is respect, trust, safety, and awareness are established. And who knows, in due time, you may even find yourself inviting someone back over to cross your fence and join you in your space.