There are times, or rather periods of time in our lives where lessons hit us left and right with dizzying speed! As if life, exasperated by our not ‘getting it’ is throwing at us a bunch of events, signs and symbols hoping it will eventually sink in…
When it doesn’t, we usually wake up one morning, feeling bad, stressed out of our minds or lingering in the depths of depression, wondering why we feel this way since we were ‘just fine’ the day before! We are shocked by our astonishing lack of self awareness and the mere realization causes us even more stress. “How on earth did I not see this coming?”
Too busy running around like busy bees, doing this and that and the other thing, seeing clients, doing errands, sorting paperwork, dealing with delicate or crisis situations, helping out friends, we give our all and run on empty at some point. There is no energy left for us and we inevitably crash, bummed and distraught wondering what happened.
It is never one thing alone but a series of things, accumulated hours and degrees of focus, giving openly and generously of our time and attention, sucking up other people’s problems and energies like dried up sponges. All the while forgetting to establish any boundaries and then we wonder why we feel so ‘Blah’, so exhausted, so down in the dumps, so stressed out.
For people prone to anxiety and depression, or those who suffer from chronic pain, disorder or disease, learning how to draw and establish boundaries is as crucial as self defense for survival. The reason being that our reserves of energy are limited and we need to preserve them as precious water in the desert.
We cannot afford to go: “Oh! Yes, I can help you with that, no problem, here give it to me, I will fix that for you!”, or “This is so interesting, I will do some research for you and we shall find a solution”, or “No worries, I can pick you up and…” and so on and so forth. We need our energy for the essential, the necessary and the absolutely urgent.
Can't be everything to everybody
From helping, serving or accommodating a beloved family member to a friend to a client, we run ourselves thin and then wonder why we break! At the time we may feel as if there is no other way around or even that it is not such a big deal. We cannot set our priorities right because we are too busy making others our priority. Making others happy, wanting to prove how good we are, how capable and efficient, how lovable, caring and attentive.
Then life steps in and inundates us with more and more difficult clients, more people in dramatic situations that need help, more bad news, more crisis situations until the whole thing reaches a crescendo that leaves us listless and dazed. “What the hell is happening here?” we wonder and what is happening is basically that we failed to see the obvious, the lesson in all this. To love and value ourselves first and set healthy boundaries.
Healthy detachment is not indifference, it is not about being cold-hearted but it is all about setting boundaries to protect ourselves from external energies that affect us negatively and are too overwhelming for our own good. It is all about learning where we end and where others begin. Our limits, our boundaries with the external world and people around us.
It is about preserving our energy, setting our ground rules, valuing what we have to give and not throw it away indiscriminately. It is not other people’s job to figure out how much they can take or ask from us. It is our responsibility to do so, to tell them, to make it crystal clear. Besides if you give too much and too often, what you give loses its value, it goes unrecognized and unappreciated.
We cannot be sponges or magnets of other people’s pain, drama and confusion. We cannot allow just about anything to enter our souls and minds. Otherwise we turn ourselves into willful negative energy suckers and end up feeling ‘raped’, used and abused. What we give goes wasted and we end up feeling disappointed and hurt.
Boundaries feel good
It feels good to set our boundaries, to draw our line in the sand. To relish in our own life energy, in our own little nurturing bubble. It is therapeutic to do whatever we need to do to restore our energy, to create time and personal space for ourselves. No, it is not selfish, it is self-preservation, self-love and self-respect. It is all about turning inwards and fulfilling our own needs for love and care before we go seek it turning outwards.
Yes, of course you can give and should give, but not more than you can afford, and not when you are depriving yourself of your own needs. If you take away from yourself what you give to others will not even be of the quality you would have wanted, its energy will be weak, distorted. People sense that and then you end up being misunderstood and you feel others are unappreciative or ungrateful.
This is not what giving and sharing is supposed to be. It takes a healthy giver and receiver for the exchange of energies – be that material, emotional or mental - to work out well. When the balance tilts to the other side you know that trouble lays ahead. That you will end up feeling exhausted, like a squeezed lemon and no party will be happy after all, despite all your good intentions. Isn’t that a pity?
Knowing where and when to give
Being aware and mindful of where you put your energy and how much of it you share or give away and why, is key to preserving and maintaining a healthy balance. One that will allow you to have enough for yourself to be the best you can be and give your best to others. A balance where the recipient of whatever you offer will in turn be a willing, appreciative and/or respectful receiver and one that can benefit from whatever you wish to give them.
It is a great misconception that you need to give your everything. It is not the quantity but the quality of what you give that matters and that must be subject to serious editing! The more you edit the gifts you give to the world, the more efficient and powerful these are. You need to know to whom, when, where and what to give to others and why you want to do so.
Self-love and self-esteem
Setting your boundaries means self esteem. It means valuing yourself enough to not waste your energy. It means detaching yourself, taking a step back and protecting yourself from other people’s wants and needs when you otherwise allow these to touch you too deeply so that they become intrusive and problematic.
Boundaries are simply survival. You don’t go to the tiger and say “Here, take a piece of me”. You don’t go to the rapist and tell him “Do whatever you want with me”. To the conman and say “Use me, I can handle it, I don’t care”. Why then allow in your every day life other people’s needs take priority and take up your time and energy without some kind of balancing reward or compensation? Why offer your soul wide open to people or situations without any protection? It is like having sex with a stranger unprotected!
No matter what are the reasons why you have difficulty setting boundaries, be that for a need of acceptance, love and appreciation or even identifying too much with others, it is crucial that you learn how to do so now! Life is finite and so is your energy. Use it wisely, give it the value it deserves, the value you deserve. You don’t want to reach the end of your life feeling you have given your all and received little or nothing in return.
If you do not value yourself, nobody else will
This is what usually happens if you don’t value yourself enough, others do not value what you offer either. We teach others how to treat us by the way we treat ourselves. Treat yourself well, know your limits and honor them so that others honor you. Be kind to yourself and spread kindness around you from a balanced and grounded position.
You need boundaries for you to have a specific form in this world and be seen as such. You need a well defined and strong sense of self to define your identity, your beingness, your value, what you are all about and what you have to offer to this world. Define yourself by setting your boundaries and create what you want to create with love. For yourself, for what you do and for whom you share it with or offer it to.