I’m reading a book that resided on my bookshelf for a while – “A Pace of Grace: The Virtues of a Sustainable Life” by Linda Kavelin Popov. I like to wander over to my bookshelves to see what book talks to me. I saw this book but didn’t pick it up and instead of starting reading another one. I wasn’t satisfied with the book as this book kept calling me back, and now I know why. The book covers many topics that make up a sustainable life, but the topic around ‘set clear boundaries’ strongly resonated with me.
What does it mean to have healthy boundaries? It’s setting standards around how others treat you physically or emotionally. It’s setting boundaries around how I treat myself – physically and emotionally.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t felt that others had mistreated them in some way. Did we allow them to do this to us? Sometimes we attach ourselves to another person where we don’t know where he or she ends off, and we begin.
I’m a recovering ‘pleaser.’ I felt it was more important to please the other person than to address my own needs. You can be sure that my boundaries were weak, others took advantage of me, and I let them. All under the heading of wanting to ‘be liked.’ It’s so seductive to be a pleaser and yet under my ‘pleaser’ guise was a frustrated and angry person who felt like a victim.
Over the years, I’ve relinquished this ‘pleaser’ role to a more manageable part of my life. I still like to see others happy, and if I can do that for them, I’m happy. No longer will I do this at the expense of taking care of myself first. If I don’t want to do something now, I feel perfectly ok saying ‘no.’
This journey from weak to stronger boundaries has occurred over many years. I had to make a conscious effort to become aware of my feelings…when I felt others were encroaching on my boundaries. I had to decide it was essential to my wellbeing to create barriers for myself and others. I started to listen to how I felt around others and if I felt comfortable or not with them. Here were some of my telltale signs:
- If I felt angry or frustrated with a person because they were asking me again to do something for them and I thought I had to say ‘yes.’ Just the fact that I didn’t want to do it provided me with the perfect opportunity to create an immediate boundary.
- I have given away many hours of my life listening to chronic complainers. I’m happy to listen to a friend if they are sorting out their feelings, but I’m no longer willing to listen to them complain about the same thing over and over again. I will distance myself by asking them ‘how can I help you” or stating ‘I’m sure you will figure out what is best for you.” Then I remove myself from the situation.
- Being always available for others and tolerating their interruptions even when I needed to do something for myself. I was on call for others but not on call for myself. If I was working and someone called, I felt I had to answer the phone. Now I have work time and phone time and don’t mingle the two. It was a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, but I love it now and feel right about this decision.
- I was busy being a nice person and taking care of others. An excuse for why I didn’t have time to do what was important to me. I wasn’t taking responsibility for my life. I still err on this one and am a caretaker. I smile now at myself, recognizing my need to feel special by taking care of others. I’m seeking approval from others when at all times I have in me all the support I need to feel good about myself.
What boundaries do you need to create or make stronger? Take the time to list times when you said ‘yes’ and wanted to say ‘no.’ Who are the people in your life that it’s difficult to say ‘no?’ Create your list and choose one action step that you can make to start creating boundaries for yourself. Start small and start now.
Women’s Group Topics
When we set boundaries, how do others react? How do we not react to others when we set our boundaries? Do you have a difficult time setting boundaries with others?
“To fully enjoy the ‘richness’ of our lives, we need to stop long enough to visit with ourselves.”