Sometimes you close the curtain and people reach right through and poke you anyway.
What the fuck?
We have these names for things that make us feel different kinds of energy deficits: Energy vampire. Energy-suck. Time-suck. Waste of time. Black hole. Drain.
What do all of these things have in common? They take without giving back.
Right now, It's not hard for me to think of a bunch of people and situations that just leave me feeling empty and cranky and kinda confused. So, I want to talk about boundaries.
Here's what I know about them:
Boundaries give you space to do and work on what's important to you. They let you set expectations with other people, not only for what they can expect from you, but what you're expecting from them. Boundaries also communicate to others that you value your own time and effort, and that they should too.
Sounds great, right?
Why, then, do so many of us struggle with setting them? I ask myself this question every time I feel my space being invaded, my time being stolen or my energy being drained.
Setting boundaries is ROUGH, y'all. When the walls start crashing down, it can feel like there's some malevolent outside force purposely trying to destroy you. But I have come to a very uncomfortable realization:
If this is happening, you didn't fucking build a strong enough wall.
Do you feel super sad about yourself now? I sure do. But that's ok, this is a very break-you-down-then-build-you-up situation. Keep reading.
The problem isn't the people or things that want to break your boundaries--it's that you may not have enforced them as strongly as you thought in the first place.
Let us examine.
I don't know about you, but my boundaries are very connected to how I'm feeling about myself. When I'm feeling particularly insecure or unsure of myself, my boundaries are blurred at best if they're even there at all. When our boundaries are weak, it can make us feel even weaker, and that allows more time, energy and fulfillment to be sucked away. It's an awful cycle, and I know from personal experience that it's terribly painful.
But here's the other thing I know about this: Nobody is going to enforce your boundaries for you. If you want to protect your time, space and energy, you have to be willing to do it yourself.
There's a decision that has to be made here.
Either you can let the insecurity and feelings of worthlessness win, or you can make yourself temporarily EVEN MORE UNCOMFORTABLE (I am yelling because the discomfort is absolutely inevitable. However! Then you rally) and come out the other side feeling more happy, productive and confident than before.
When you first start setting boundaries, it's almost a guarantee that you'll be met with some kind of resistance. The people around you might not be used to this kind of behavior from you and they might try their damnedest to get you to bend or break your own rules.
It's going to feel shitty in that moment You might feel guilty. You might feel like a bad friend or partner. You might think that it can't hurt to give way just this once.
The truth is that it absolutely hurts, especially in the beginning, to give in to this guilt. You end up setting the expectation that you will always be willing to give way instead of the expectation that your time and goals are to be valued just as much as anyone else's. And if you don't show up for yourself, nobody else is going to show up for you.
This is precisely where you need to be the one who respects your own boundaries enough to enforce them. This is where you get to declare your independence and say "nope, sorry--this is/isn't important to me."
As you continue to enforce these boundaries and this new pattern of behavior, you'll be met with less and less resistance. It'll become simpler and more natural for you to set them, and you'll gain even more respect--from others, yes, but most importantly from yourself.
If you have been struggling with setting boundaries, don't worry. We all struggle with them to a certain degree, and I personally struggle with them a LOT.
But I believe in you, and don't forget--practice makes perfect.
What's your biggest struggle with setting boundaries? How can you work on making it easier?