Often we find ourselves in situations or amongst people that leave us feeling drained, frustrated or doubting ourselves. Yet we continue to allow these people and situations to be part of our lives – maybe we feel obliged because we’ve known them a long term, or we just feel bad saying no and making someone else unhappy. Maybe we feel perversely better about ourselves by being agreeable and making someone else temporarily happier, to the detriment of our own emotional and mental wellbeing.
If we continue these patterns however, we start to realise that we’re not truly making choices for ourselves but for everyone else in our lives. We also realise that the reason we’re doing this, is that deep down we’re filling a gap within ourselves by pleasing others, going along with the flow or following expectations. By the time we come around to pursuing our own true goals and desires, we’re so depleted and unmotivated, we often just can’t find the energy or belief in ourselves anymore.
Thus the cycle continues where we keep living for others. It might be obvious such as begrudgingly doing someone else a favour, or even mundane activities like picking up the phone and talking to someone that we don’t really want to talk to, or agreeing to a date that we’re not very excited about. Each time we choose a situation that we don’t truly want to be in, we need to expend more energy than when we partake in activities that truly make our soul sing. Our time is valuable, and each moment we choose with the wrong people and in the wrong situations, is a moment we’ve chosen not to be doing something more meaningful or positive for ourselves.
In order to have the energy and time to pursue our goals and increase our happiness from within, we need to be mindful of where we spend these two valuable assets (energy and time). Having boundaries helps us to do this. When we encounter a particular person or situation that we don’t have a positive feeling about (we may feel annoyed, frustrated, resentful or exhausted) we should immediately investigate this feeling. In almost all cases, we will uncover that our feelings are well founded and that there’s a reason why we feel this way. Perhaps we’ve been friends with someone for 20 years, and we’ve only just realised that each time we interact with them we feel a little frustrated. We might uncover that the shared values we believed had brought us together, were in fact non existent. In any case, once we’ve realised that a person or situation is no longer bringing us joy, peace, or inspiration, we need to re-evaluate their value in our lives. Unless we have a specific obligation to meet, we should consider extricating ourselves from these people and situations. We should be setting up boundaries to ensure that our inner peace and happiness are untouched by these outward influences.
How do we set up boundaries? By only accepting what is right for us. Boundaries can be physical, emotional or mental, but in every scenario we are able to choose who or what we let into our lives. Common examples of not setting boundaries include:
- Always picking up the phone even when we don’t want to talk to the other person (quite often resulting in other people overstepping our emotional boundaries and burdening us with their problems when we’re already depleted)
- Going out and saying yes to people to keep them happy when we don’t want to go (barring any personal obligations/responsibilities, this reflects poor physical boundaries)
- Taking on extra work when we’re already overburdened and exhausted (this is an example of us not respecting and taking care of ourselves)
- Accepting someone’s behaviour or actions towards us when we don’t actually agree with it (tacitly accepting behaviour means that we’re not standing up for ourselves, and allows others to continue interacting with us in the same poor manner).
“Not standing up for ourselves and what is right for us is also a reflection of poor boundaries.
It shows the universe that we’re willing to accept anything, regardless of its value and benefit in our lives.”
By slowly resetting and establishing boundaries, we can start to make wiser choices with our time – ensuring that as much as possible, every interaction and activity re-energises us and brings more joy and meaning into our lives.
Chiara is the Melbourne-based founder of CIIARA.