Every so often we come up against a difficult and challenging situation in our lives. And for some of us, this difficult situation is one that has been repeating itself over and over again. And this got me thinking.
You see, when we come up against these challenges, we can either do what we have always done, or we can take a hard stand and choose to do something different. And sometimes, its something you cannot just walk away from completely and this makes it even more difficult. So what does one do?
We all want to be fair, kind and loving to the people that we care about. Sometimes that means going out of our way for them. At other times, it means putting up with a certain amount of crap. In the long run, we hope and bet on the odds that it’s worth it for our relationship to have a little give-and-take. However, giving out love without any boundaries can be extremely dangerous and carries extreme risk to our own sense of self and others.
We all know that it’s important to have boundaries. On paper, it makes perfect sense to have boundaries. But when we try to put our assertiveness to the test, we often flounder. Others may refer to us as “dependable” and as someone who can always be counted on. But when we need help, there’s no reciprocation.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Why Don’t we have Boundaries?
Frequently, we’re struggling with one or more of the following:
We feel that it’s irresponsible to be capable of something and yet still say “no” when asked
We feel that we are responsible for other people’s feelings
We feel guilt over simple misunderstandings or hurting someone else’s feelings
We have someone in our life that doesn’t respond well to limits
We give more than we get in out of our relationships and start to feel isolated
We think, “At least I’ve done the right thing”
We minimize our concerns over our own needs
We feel extremely capable and loyal beyond measure regardless of the recipient of our dedication
We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility
We believe that if we try just a little bit harder, other people will “get it” and understand where we’re coming from
We think that, “Maybe I can save them”
We would make excellent lawyers, in that we can talk ourselves out of our needs in any circumstance
We over-emphasize with other people’s struggles, feelings and situation
We believe that it’s irresponsible if we aren’t there for others when they need us
We have a mistaken belief that “things won’t get done” or “they won’t be done right” if we don’t take care of things ourselves.
When we don’t have boundaries, we end up risking losing ourselves. More than we might realize. For example:
We dread looking forward to each day as we get out of bed
We start to resent others for having needs and with any imbalance in our relationships
We start to feel “on edge”, angry and irritable with others, even though we would never, ever, let them know this
More and more, we start to have trouble concentrating, we forget things, and generally start to “not care”
We start to become unaware of what legitimate boundaries look like
We don’t know how to handle someone who is hurt by our boundaries
We feel “run over” all the time
We start to move from crisis to crisis as we continue to feel out of control
We feel a twinge of sadness as we think about what we have to look forward to
Our life starts to feel meaningless
We feel guilty or afraid when we consider setting boundaries
We don’t know how to answer someone who wants our time, love, energy or money
Our inability to say no actually makes people less responsible, not more
If it goes on for too long, we start to feel nothing
When we use our boundaries, we feel selfish
So what is the solution?
First, we have to realize that just trying to be better and work harder isn’t working. In fact, the more we try, the worse we feel.
Second, we must understand that being nice isn’t working anymore. I don’t mean that we should be mean; rather, our motivation for being nice is misguided and misplaced. We’re doing it because we’re afraid.
Third, did you notice that taking responsibility for other people isn’t working. We end up living our life feeling worn out, ragged and miserable. No matter how many people we help or save, other people will still make poor choices.
In order to have things change for the better, we have to be willing to give up the misguided approaches to life. In essence, this is called taking ownership of our lives. We’re already good at being responsible. Now, we just need to change who we’re being responsible for.