In continuation of the self-care saga, I’ve got the letter S to stand for Set Your Boundaries. By setting and honoring your boundaries, you are choosing yourself first. And in doing this, you are affirming your worth and validating your right to love. Forgive my metaphor, I’m a goofball 😀
You know, they always say when you feel overwhelmed with tasks to start with the hardest thing. Well, yep, boundaries, here they are. Easily the most challenging part of this whole process, but equally the most rewarding. So let’s start with defining the word, “a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.” Really, I see boundaries as setting parameters around all thoughts, environments, and behaviors that we will and will not tolerate.
Here comes the tricky part. Now, I know I’m not the only one on this planet that puts others’ feelings before mine. WE CAN NOT DO THIS ANYMORE. It’s like saying you hate raviolis and then when someone asks you to eat some, you do it so you don’t hurt their feelings. That’s like telling yourself that your feelings don’t matter. Yeah, it’s ravioli, but still. Essentially saying I care more about making this person happy instead of ensuring I get what I truly want. WHICH AREN’T RAVIOLIS SO WHY AM I EATING THEM? Sounds a little bizarre, don’t eat the raviolis then, but in order to do that, you have to set parameters and realistic expectations for those around you. But if you take this ravioli example and apply it to your life, then it kind of makes you realize what you’re doing to yourself. We are unconsciously telling our souls that we don’t come first, we don’t deserve to have our needs met, and imagine the consequences when you do this all the time. For me, I am a people pleaser. I want everyone to like me, I want to make everyone happy, so much that I will be in tears for days because of one decision I made that completely disregarded any semblance of boundaries I have set. I’m looking back and thinking, how on earth did I get to this point? If I’m looking out for everyone else, who is looking out for Madeleine? And as sad as it is to say, everyone is looking out to protect themselves, so there’s no one to look out for me. Then I just get really sad about why I have been so unkind to myself. But I have to be compassionate; I’m still learning.
Going back to the people pleasing, I’m going to try to dissect why we would even feel that to be necessary in the first place. As children, if we behave in a way to make our guardians and parents happy and emotionally responsive, then we are securing a consistent environment of safety for ourselves. We never feel threatened that Mom’s pissed, so we know we are safe and sound and she’ll make me dinner (at least in little kid logic). Looking on the other side, what would a child feel like if their parents were disappointed and upset? Ashamed, unlovable, and potentially in danger of losing their security. If your caregivers are angry, they may cut off your lifelines. What if they are so mad at me that I am alone? If I do what I need to do to keep them happy and calm, then I can be assured I’ll get what I need. Can you see how this can turn into a slippery slope? Well, I hate raviolis, but I know Dad is so happy when I eat them, so I will go against my taste buds just so I can make him happy and ensure my safety. Make sense? See the faulty logic? When we grow up, the raviolis have the potential to morph into abuse on all levels. If it makes me sad to be talked down to by someone I love, why wouldn’t I rise above and leave the situation? Why would I let myself sit in the agony of never being happy only to satisfy the needs of others? You have to be honest with yourself and understand that YOUR. HAPPINESS. IS. A. PRIORITY. I am worthy of love and peace just like any of you people. It’s about damn time I get what I want.
It kind of goes back to the instant gratification comment I made. If this reeeeeally hot guy came up to you and said, “Hey girl, I’ve got these super delicious toasted ravs for you to try.” Now I’m thinking, hot damn, this guy is so cute. In that moment, feeling validated by a stud will make your esteem skyrocket. Well, hold your horses lady. You said a million times before you HATE raviolis, they make you sick. Why would you all of a sudden do something you didn’t want to do just to get gratification from this guy you’ll probably never see again? All for that momentary glory? Putting yourself through the misery of getting those raviolis down and possibly being nauseous the rest of the day all so you could see the 3 second twinkle in that dude’s eye. I deserve to feel well and for my taste buds to savor delicious things, not something yucky like that. SO I kindly tell the attractive man, “Thanks for the offer, but I really can’t stand them.” He may be taken aback for a second, how dare anyone deny my delicious rav! But he’ll get over it. He has to set realistic expectations himself and respect the boundaries set. Not everyone is going to like raviolis. Is it even ethical to force a ravioli upon someone? The example is getting a little far-fetched, but hopefully you can kind of follow along. And I know, it’s hard. In that moment, all you want is that validation and approval. But we have to learn to give it to ourselves. We’ll be grasping until we die if we put that control in the hands of others. Feelings of peace and wholeness can only come from within.
Like I said before, this is probably one of the hardest things about self-care. Recognizing and honoring our limits. If we don’t, however, we end up feeling tired, confused, frustrated, and just plain sad. We are not allocating the energy needed to our own selves, but rather wasting it on pleasing someone else.
Stay mindful of your intentions behind actions and see whether you are doing things for yourself or others. Take the time to discover more about yourself, your preferences, your disgusts, what you absolutely will not tolerate, “deal breakers” if you will. From there, you can recognize those toxic behaviors and understand the need to eliminate it from your life. And of course, you can’t do it all at once. But like any other habit, it takes practice, as well as courage to tackle such a feat. Once you set small boundaries, like being exhausted from work and having to cancel on plans with your friend, it will get easier with time, and your body and mind will strengthen their beautiful relationship. Honoring yourself first will send you waves of energy, which will help you enforce your boundaries in the future. Be patient with yourself, but be diligent in respecting the limits you have set. It may be challenging in the beginning, because a lot of people don’t like hearing the word “no”. But if they truly respect you and what you’re doing, they will understand. They will soon realize that you were only protecting yourself, and maybe they are capable of doing it for themselves. And if they don’t respect the boundaries you’ve set, then they may find themselves not knowing what they are. They were never taught to respect people’s bubbles. But don’t worry, they’ll figure it out soon enough.
I’ve only been doing this myself recently, but I feel lighter. I literally feel like the moment I started to realize the importance of respecting myself a physical weight was lifted. I can’t really identify what that weight was specifically right now, but oh goodness. It feels so good. It feels good to tell someone I need to hang out with myself for the night. It feels good to tell someone, “no, I won’t kiss you, I just met you.” It feels good to not pick up a shift because I know my body is tired and needs some lovin. It wasn’t very easy at first, though. I used to always be a “yes” girl. I’d be running around without a moment to breathe, driving from one destination to the next all because I didn’t know how to say no. I wanted everyone to be happy. I wanted everyone to think, “oh, wow, Madeleine can do it all!” I think one year I did 5 Thanksgivings?? Crazy.
People will forgive you. They will understand. Usually, they even throw in the, “hey, let me know if you need anything!” and that makes it feel even better. If they don’t understand, then exercise your boundaries and don’t be afraid to cut off anything toxic in your life. That can be a human, a family member, a coworker, your job, really anything that isn’t helping you get to where you need to be. Your mind, body, and soul need the space to grow and blossom, and you should never let anyone or anything take that away from you. It’s important to communicate your needs and feelings, if you feel safe, in order to protect yourself. It’s also equally important to respect the boundaries that have been set by others; they are looking out for themselves, just like you.
Once you begin to enforce these bounds with those around you, the gears will start turning. You will become lighter, too. You will value your body and your soul. Things will start to get so much better. Your being will thank you. You will see the value in caring and respecting for yourself. You are not being selfish.
I promise there is so much goodness to be found in the universe when you begin to look and love what’s inside.