on keeping clear boundaries
I will never forget this sentence a mentor of mine told me years ago -
“Naama, you need to stop abandoning yourself.”
I had a tendency to abandon myself in an attempt to serve others’ needs. Because I was afraid of missing out on an opportunity, letting people down or being perceived as difficult / inconvenient I was saying "yes" to everything and everyone.
I was overbooked, overwhelmed and stressed. I felt resentful, but in reality I kept myself stuck in the cycle by not being clear with myself (and therefore with others) about what I want and need, what I’m available for, what I’m not available for, what feels good, what doesn’t, etc.
I felt frustrated, angry and depleted.
Can you relate?
So many of us operate from this scarcity mentality where we feel like we should never turn down opportunities. Especially as women, we're culturally conditioned to help, to nurture, to put others first. We take on work that we don't need to take on. We attend events that we don't want to attend. We go on dates when we'd much rather be catching up with a friend, taking a bath or reading.
We don't want to "let people down"
We are afraid of “missing out on opportunities”
(in my experience it has always been the opposite; whenever I said “no” so many opportunities opened up for me by virtue of being clear on what I want and honouring it)
If you’re experiencing exhaustion, anger, frustration, resentment and guilt, these are often signs of being out of alignment with yourself; out of alignment with your needs, desires and priorities. Signs that there’s an energy leakage as a result of not having clear boundaries in place.
Setting boundaries is about getting clear on what we want and what’s important to us, stating our desires and needs, and then clearly and directly communicating them with others (vs. assuming they know, it’s extremely important to set up expectations).
It’s a tool we use to stop energy drainage and protect the things that matter most to us.
When we don’t create and honour our boundaries we rarely get to experience the life we want; our needs are always put to the side to make space for someone else's.
So much of it is about valuing yourself in relation to yourself (not in relation to others), saying ‘no’ to what doesn’t serve you and prioritising / advocating for your needs. It’s a journey of tuning in and listening to yourself and paying attention to the impact the things you take on have on your body.
If this is something you struggle with and you’re ready to start setting some boundaries, here are some questions you can ask yourself today:
Which healthy boundaries do I need to create to protect what matters most to me?
Which unspoken expectations do I have that I'm ready to communicate?
Is it setting up boundaries with your loved ones (your romantic partner, your family, your friends)? Maybe communicating your expectations around how you think you should be treated? Maybe it’s asking your mom to stop asking you about your romantic life? Maybe it’s asking your partner to stop asking you if you found a job? What is and isn’t ok for your partner to be doing in a relationship? Maybe it’s asking him to stop texting with his ex-girlfriend? Is it around your working hours and your availability outside of those working hours? Is it speaking up about tasks you shouldn’t be doing at work? Is it saying ‘no’ to commitments that no longer serve you?
So long as your desires, wants and needs are being held as unspoken expectations you’ll always feel frustrated. What stops me from putting in place the boundaries that I want and need?
Here are a few common examples - “I don’t want to be difficult” “I don’t want to be an inconvenience” “I don’t want them to think negatively of me” “I don’t want to upset them” “What if they never ask me again” “They might pull away from me” How do I want to communicate these boundaries - through words, actions or both? We teach people how to treat us by what we say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to. When we make ourselves available for something, when we give our time and energy to certain things, we are basically communicating “I’m ok with this”, even if deep inside we aren't. People assume things based on our behaviour. Most of us don’t like to have difficult conversations, that's why we often struggle setting and communicating our boundaries. Boundaries require us to speak up. If you’re still reading this, my guess is that deep inside you know that you need to have some boundaries in place, but you’re probably feeling guilty even thinking about it. Here's what I want you to know... By having boundaries, you show the people you love that it’s ok for them to have them too. You are modeling deep self care. If you’re letting people drain your energy by dumping negativity on you, you’re holding their emotions, challenges and energetic blocks for them. While doing this often comes from a place of kindness, you’re actually doing them a disservice because by holding ‘their stuff’ for them, you make it impossible for them to grow and evolve. They are unable to do anything with it while you have it. When you give them support without holding their discomfort for them, they are empowered to make positive change. And finally, experiencing guilt as you’re shifting old ways of being is normal. Allow yourself to sit with it and feel it so you can let it go... Boundaries require us to love ourselves. To love ourselves so deeply that we respect our time and energy and we see ourselves as a priority. We see our wants and needs just as important (if not more important) than someone else’s. As always, I’d love to hear from you! Hit reply and share with me how does this resonate with you? What boundaries are you planning to put in place? With love, Naama