For the longest time, I was always putting other people's agendas first. I'd invest a lot of time and money into others and the things they were doing, and I rarely got the same time and attention in return. I remember spending hours and quite a bit of money planning parties for friends who didn't return the favor.
Are you like me? Do you find yourself giving and giving and leaving little time and energy for yourself? Do you find you say yes when you want to say no? Even over simple things? Do you feel like people are just taking and taking from you?
What we all need in our lives is boundaries.
When we put everyone around us first, we're telling them it's okay to put us last. We're giving them permission to take advantage of us and treat us poorly. We're letting them get away with behavior that is unacceptable.
If we always say yes, we're diminishing the value of our acceptance and making it an expectation. Each yes is training others to expect a yes, which will escalate the asking. We're letting ourselves be taken advantage of. Then, when we finally say no, it may upset them; it can even create resentment and strain relationships.
This is a toxic cycle. Saying yes when you want to say no is neglecting yourself, creating resentment for yourself and for those around you. This is not a good way to live.
I've realized that I need boundaries in my life to stay healthy and happy. We all do. This week, my boyfriend and I were cleaning my apartment-- a special occasion to be sure! We both hate cleaning-- and we got an invitation to go out. If we went, my boyfriend wouldn't be able to help me later, and I would have to do it myself or live with the mess. We had a choice. While I wanted to go, I knew I needed the sanity a clean apartment would give me. So, we said no. And it was okay.
Boundaries = Priorities
There will be other times to go out. There will always be work to do. It's not about selfishly putting ourselves first all of the time. We can help a friend, take on a special project, etc. It's all about learning to prioritize the important things and not sacrifice our needs for someone else's agenda.
So if you are neglecting your self-care like I was, then here are some tips to help you set proper boundaries:
1. Set emotional boundaries.
If you're an empath like me, you internalize other people's emotions. Even if you don't consider yourself an empath, when someone shares their stories or their stress or their struggles, you absorb that. You have to protect yourself from being emotionally drained and battered (I'm practicing this by teaching what I need to learn!). When someone is sharing their pain with you, visualize a shield of light between you so that you can listen without internalizing their energy.
2. Schedule your priorities first.
Schedule your needs and make them non-negotiable. In the beginning, it will feel very uncomfortable, awkward, or even bad to say no. It will get easier the more you do it. Remember, the discomfort of saying no will only last a SHORT time, but the consequences of saying yes are long-term. And if you give in, people won't take you seriously or respect you and your boundaries. So, stick to it; it's worth it!
3. Fill your glass first.
You teach others how to treat you. When you set healthy boundaries, you set clear expectations of how you should be treated. Self-care is one way you do this. If you don't take care of yourself-- fill your glass first, so to speak-- you will constantly be depleted. Then, you won't have the time or energy to be there for the things you want to say yes to.
4. Mind your distractions.
These can be people or many other kinds of interruptions or distractions. I recommend keeping a journal and every time you are distracted or disrupted, write it down and document what happened and why. This will enable you to recognize and avoid those things that are taking up your time and wrecking your priorities.
5. Have a ready response.
Usually, we feel the need to say yes when we want to say no because we are in the moment of a person asking and we feel pressured to respond. By creating a default response, you know what to say in the moment, and you give yourself time to consider if you really want to engage in that request. One way to respond that you can feel good about is to say, "Thank you for thinking of me. Let me get back to you on that."
Remember that boundaries are a form of self-care. And when you take care of yourself first, everything else starts to fall into place. For more emotional intelligence tips visit www.BossOfMyFeelings.com