Creating Boundaries and Learning How to say NO
I like to think that I am a nice, caring, loving person. If you need me, I am always there for you and I hate to see anyone suffer, be sad or hurt. My kindness has sometimes been a weakness but it still doesn’t change the fact that I want to be kind. What I don’t want to do though is be so kind that I begin to feel worn down, heavy and burdened by those that benefit from my kindness. The feeling of being drained and burdened begins to manifest within us when we aren’t creating boundaries and are saying “yes” to things consistently that we really want to say “no” to. The more we do the things that we don’t really want to do and sacrifice our happiness for others, the more we lose ourselves, our energy and our time. To me, taking a stand and creating boundaries is an act of self-love and not selfish as it may appear to others that don’t understand its importance. We have one life and the time and energy we spend living it is something that we can’t ever get back, so when it comes to giving them to others we must treat them as valuable assets- because they are the most treasured things that we have.
I grew up with a mom that had manic-depression and with that came extreme amounts of worry, concern, anxiety and a feeling that I had to always be there for her in order to keep her well. To me, especially in my youth that meant that I had to give in to all of her needs and put some of them before my own. When I didn’t, I felt guilty, felt like she would get sick again and I felt like I as letting her down. I was there for her more out of fear and guilt than out of genuine caring sometimes and I knew it. Eventually, it became more of a habit and what I HAD to do more than what I wanted to. With that feeling rising up in me, I had managed to create resistance that was weighing so heavily on me that it started to affect all other areas of my life.
What I had not realized at the time is that I had trained her to rely on me. I had set the standard for how our relationship functioned and it was more in her favor than it was in mine. By 2009 when her long-time boyfriend of sixteen years passed away, I found myself making up for his lost time on top of the time I was already giving of myself and it drove me into the ground. I was so overwhelmed that I truly lost myself in the process.
It was at this time I realized that I had to start creating boundaries and limitations. I couldn’t see her every weekend, I couldn’t talk on the phone four times a day, I couldn’t run to her house every time she had a problem and I couldn’t spend the rest of my life making hers comfortable. So I began working on saying “no.” I began working on creating a different relationship with her so that she could spread her wings and stop relying on me so much. It changed everything.
For the better.
Here are a few things I did to create those boundaries with her and how I continue to do so with anyone else in my life that I feel may be taking more of me than I am willing to give:
I let her know that being there for her too much was becoming too much for me. I expressed how much it was affecting my life and how I felt that if I kept doing it, I would lose my mind. Literally that is how it felt so I told her. When we walk around keeping our thoughts of feeling overwhelmed to ourselves, we truly can’t blame others that are taking what we give. If we don’t speak up and express that we are struggling, that we are feeling pressure and misalignment then we can’t be upset with them. Some people are so caught up in their needs and wants that they fail to see usdrowning. Let others know that it is too much. Whether they comply or not at this stage isn’t important, but it can ease our minds as we get closer to more boundaries because we have been clear WHY we are starting to say “no.”
- Shift Responsibility
I reminded her that she is her own responsibility and that I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) spend my entire life doing things for her that should could do herself. I let her know that her decisions had consequences both for herself and for me and so if she still made conscious decisions that hurt her or became a problem for me, I was not going to pick up the pieces because I was not the one that dropped them. When we let others know that they have to take control of their own lives and that we don’t hold the responsibility anymore, they become more independent and they start to make better choices. When we make it clear that their problems, choices and energetic garbage is theirs and theirs alone, they start to be more mindful because the co-dependent relationship we have created starts to crumble brick by brick, and we want it to. This is also something we have to realize as well in order to release the guilt and anguish we feel when we decide that we won’t be there for people that take advantage of us. We can give advice, we can listen but if we didn’t make the mess, we don’t have to clean it up.
- Follow Through
What I noticed was that the more I became okay with saying “no” and the more I said it, the easier it became to do. I stopped feeling guilty, I stopped feeling scared and worried about her getting sick or being mad because I had been clear about what my standards were for myself and the changes I needed to see happen. As I stood my ground over and over again, the more she began to become more independent, the less she stopped relying on me for everything, and the lighter I felt. We teach others how to treat us. We can’t get upset with others that take advantage of us and wipe us out if we have allowed that to happen or set a standard then go back on it. Being consistent with what we say to those around us about how and why we say “no” and creating boundaries is where true change happens. Just as the co-dependent relationship formed because of our constant availability, a more independent relationship emerges from our detachment.
Most of the reasons why we haven’t created boundaries to begin with all stems from fear. Fear that if we aren’t there or do things we won’t be liked or loved anymore. We fear it would be selfish to say no or to create boundaries. We experience guilt because then we think we are a bad person if we don’t do certain things.
Yet, the truth of this all is that all those thoughts are just illusions. Just because we stop doing things we always did doesn’t mean that others will stop loving us and IF they did then they didn’t love you, they loved what you did FOR them and in that case is it really a loss? Just because we say no and create boundaries doesn’t make us selfish. It is an act of self-love and if others see it as selfish yet didn’t see them draining you as selfish, isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black? Just because we feel guilt doesn’t mean that it is warranted. After all, guilt stems from doing things that don’t align with our values. While being there for others and maintaining healthy relationships may be one of our values, if we are feeling like we don’t want to do things and do them anyway with a heavy heart and energy, that guilt is then transmuted into resentment. Resentment weights heavier than guilt over time. If we value the relationships in our lives and want to nurture them, resentment will manifest as the complete opposite of nurturing. Our value for good relationships at that point goes right out of the window and so—so should our guilt .
Let’s commit to doing things because we want to do them for others. Let’s commit to being honest when we feel overwhelmed. Let’s commit to loving ourselves enough to set boundaries and limitations so that we can be the best that we can be. It is okay to say “no” it is okay to step back, it is okay to put ourselves first. No one that is worth it will go anywhere and those that do because you take this action, never belonged in your life to begin with.