I saw a quote today that really hit me hard.
“Boundaries will feel mean when you’ve spent your whole life over-giving.”
I do this a lot. I put everyone else’s needs ahead of mine, regardless of whether it’s just an inconvenience or something that causes me to ignore one of my own serious needs. I’ve done this pretty much forever, because I grew up wanting everyone to like me, and if you didn’t, I was very hurt and tried to find out why and change my behavior so that you would.
Spoiler: it doesn’t work that way. The more you try to become to what you think others want, the less genuine you seem, the more people will take advantage, the less valuable you will feel about yourself, and the more exhausted you will feel trying to keep up appearances. Now, I’m learning how to create boundaries and how to heal. This isn’t recent for me, this is a lifelong thing.
The unfortunate bit about learning to heal is that most times you have to experience what being damaged feels like in order to recognize it was happening at all. If I never experienced that pain, I’d never have to worry about healing. But, I also wouldn’t know as much about myself as I do now. I wouldn’t know my boundaries or how to form them. I would let people go past them all the time, because I was a people-pleaser, and it wasn’t until I had a rock-bottom moment that I realized I had to respect myself and my own boundaries, or I wasn’t going to feel better.
Like I mentioned before, this has been a lifelong thing, which means forming boundaries is harder with people you’ve known for longer. And, what feels like drawing lines and pulling away is actually very healthy. It can feel mean, but it’s not.
What a boundary looks like, can be something as simple as, “no, I can’t eat Grandma Sally’s traditional pumpkin pie because it doesn’t agree with me,” or it can be more complex, like, “no, I won’t spend time with cousin Paul because he makes inappropriate comments.”
These examples are made up just for this exercise; I don’t have a Grandma Sally or a cousin Paul. I do however have a family cheesecake recipe that will gladly eat a slice of this christmas and happily suffer for.
I’m hoping this post can be the start of a conversation with others. If you have any experiences you’d be willing to share, I would love to read them in the comments below.