“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.” – Mandy Hale.
One of 2021’s most important lessons that I have learnt so far is boundaries. For me, this is a work in progress, but one I am taking very seriously.
I am learning how to create boundaries, not feel guilty for setting them, and feel confident when saying “NO”. I have always given so much of myself to people; I love to help others and get so much pleasure when I know I’ve made a difference towards someone else’s happiness and wellbeing. Now I am not saying I am the Dalai Lama, but “acts of service” is my primary love language.
In addition to this, I am an empath. I take on other peoples broken pieces as though they are my own and try to fix them. I spend so long putting others back together that sometimes I miss out on healing myself.
I never really saw these things as problematic as I enjoyed helping others. This was until 2020, when I realised I was giving so much of myself and not receiving a lot back in return. I made a new friend during the midst of the pandemic, who then became my travel companion and, in the nicest way possible… dependent. I gave so much of myself to this friend both physically and emotionally and never got anything back in return. The realisation hit when I asked this person to do one thing for me, and she responded, telling me she couldn’t because she had to “wash her hair.” I’m not joking, and neither was she. But what was extraordinary was the sound of bleak silence when I asked her if she could name one thing she had ever actually done for me. You could have heard a pin drop.
This was the exact reality check I needed. A wake-up call to remove myself from another one-sided friendship… these people I call “fake friends.” I packed my bags and moved as far away from that toxic energy as I possibly could. And it was the best decision I could have made. As soon as I started to drive away, I felt this immense sense of freedom and nothing was pulling me back. I realised that although I had enjoyed the last four months of travelling, it would have been so different had I not had this person around.
This situation has now taught me how important it is to set boundaries. It can be tricky, especially if you have to say “no” to the ones you love, but your wellbeing is more important. It’s about becoming more aware of what and who is worth your energy. If you have a friend, you are constantly questioning whether they would do the same things for you as you do for them. It is time to set boundaries. Of course, you do not have to pack up your whole life and run for the hills as I did, but start realising your worth.
Then once you begin to remove these people or make them aware that you will not always be there to do everything, whenever they need you to, you will then create so much more time, space and energy to invest in yourself and others who go that extra mile for you too.
Here are some things to do to set your boundaries straight and avoid being a people pleaser:
- Know your limits.
Clearly define your boundaries with each type of person in your life: friends, colleagues, family members, or even strangers. Your limits will differ from person to person and over time, so keep in check with yourself. Examine past experiences that made you feel anxious, sad, resentment with an individual and take note of where your limits were.
2. Be assertive.
Realising what your boundaries are and taking note of your limits is the easy part. Now you must put them into practice. If someone crosses your boundaries, speak up and make sure they are aware. For example, if someone asks you to do something you do not want to do, speak up and say, “No, thank you.” You do not even need to give a reason; remember that “NO” is a complete sentence. It is your responsibility to set these boundaries, people will continue to cross them until you make it clear they are not allowed too.
If a friend has hurt you, do not just brush it under the carpet and allow them to repeat the same mistakes. Ask them to meet for a coffee and explain what they have done wrong, and resolve the situation. They may not even realise that they have upset you.
3. Try, try, try again.
When you put these two things into practice, it may be scary at first, but with assertion comes greater power, so keep doing this. Being assertive does not mean you are rude or unkind; it just means that you are spending more time protecting yourself. For the most part, people will understand. If you continue to allow them to cross your boundaries, it will only lead to resentment over time.
4. Block, delete, ignore.
And finally, if this doesn’t work… block, delete, ignore, see you later!
If you have tried your best to explain that their actions are causing you distress, you have every reason to remove these people from your life. You do not owe anybody anything. Protect yourself, and the right people will always find their way into your life.