I cannot tell you how many times I twisted and turned for everyone else. I got so flexible, acting like some sort of Gumby. However, I had little strength or muscle. I got good at setting my own needs aside because it was easier for me to just conform to everyone else’s needs. “I feel bad” is something I said way too often when I had to say no.
I decided to start setting boundaries because I realized I needed to pay attention to my own needs, too. News flash, our own needs matter too.
I am still in the process of doing this. To be honest, I still say “I feel bad” a lot. However, it typically comes before I say, “BUT THAT IS NOT MY RESPONSIBILITY!”
Boundaries outline who we are, what we believe, and what matters to us. They are important for many reasons:
- They show that you have self-respect.
Setting boundaries is a form of self-respect. It is saying, “I care about you and I love you, but I have to take care of myself too.”
- They prevent burn-out.
It gets exhausting caring for everyone else! Doing that all the time, without feeling our own cup, leads to burn-out. We will eventually run out of resources to care for anyone.
- They foster healthy relationships.
Relationships are not going to be a perfect 50/50 balance all the time. However, if you are solely caring for the other person, instead of paying attention to your own needs, that is too unbalanced. Relationships should not be 95/5. There must be a relatively balanced give and take.
- They improve confidence.
Once we start setting boundaries, we get better at it as time goes on. We get more confident in our selves as we communicate our needs. Further, we get more confident in our relationships with other people. We communicate our needs to people. When those needs are respected, we can become more confident in trusting others.
- They protect us.
Setting boundaries helps protect us from codependency, where we live our lives based on appeasing those around us. They can also help protect us from abusive relationships. This can be emotional abuse, or physical abuse.
Boundaries are not easy for people-pleasers, over-thinkers, or those that grew up without being taught boundaries. It is okay if it is hard! Believe me, I have had such a hard time setting boundaries, but it truly gets easier with practice.
It is a good thing to be flexible to the needs of others. It is a strength to be empathetic and in tune with the emotions of others. Do not lose that flexibility. However, learn to build strength along with the flexibility.
It is all about balance. Stay true to yourself. Don’t lose your empathy, but learn to strengthen your boundaries.