Cancer Season is upon us, y'all.
I wrote a thread on Twitter in order to help us all get through this very water-centric, emotional time relatively unscathed. And in that thread, I mentioned the importance of setting and enforcing one's personal boundaries.
Growing up, I wasn't really taught to have boundaries. I can't imagine I'm alone in that. As a result of this, I spent most of my life vulnerable in ways I didn't have to be. In ways I never chose to be.
Boundaries have become incredibly important to me over the past few years. To the point that one of my offerings is a reading to help you check on your boundaries. But I realized while writing that thread that I've never spoke to y'all about how to set boundaries.
So let's do that now.
Notice Your Feelings (As They Happen)
The first step in anything is often the hardest. Typically because the first step in anything is to stay present enough to start recognizing patterns in our thoughts, actions, and reactions. This takes some time to get the hang of, but it is so important to self work.
When you begin to notice instances where you feel angry, upset, hurt, or unappreciated when dealing with the people in your life, you gain great insights into your own wants and needs.
Here's an example from last weekend where I allowed some of my own boundaries to be crossed. I share this because 1) I feel like it's helpful in teaching a method (showing proof, as it were, as this is sort of the emotional equivalent of solving for x), and 2) it shows that enforcing your boundaries is a thing that must be constantly done.
There is someone in my life who only ever seems to want to talk to/spend time with me when they need to vent about problems they're experiencing. They will ask for advice, and the fixes to their problems are actually quite simple, for the most part. But they never seem to take or even try to implement the advice I give.
It was 8pm on a Saturday when they asked to talk to me. I agreed, even though I was in the middle of parsing out my own feelings about something going on in my personal life. I agreed, under the stipulation that it not take more than 5 minutes, as I was getting ready to spend some time on some much needed self care.
This person talked at me for a total of 30 minutes on a wide range of subjects. They cried, they yelled. And when confronted with the fact that they never take my advice, they basically said, "Yeah, but that's just me!"
This whole exchange left me feeling angry, exhausted, and unappreciated.
So let's do a bit of an autopsy.
What were my emotions, as I was experiencing them? At first, I felt inconvenienced because of the time of night, what was being asked of me, and how it was working against my plans. Then, as I was listening to this person talk, I was feeling exhausted. At the end of the conversation, I felt unappreciated because I felt like my time was being wasted/not respected. And I also felt angry at myself for allowing this to happen.
What went wrong? I allowed a person I know doesn't respect my time or emotional labor to spend up both those resources, while also cutting into the time I was going to use to take care of myself. I also did this full well knowing that I was not in the proper head space to deal with someone else's problems, because I was still trying to work out my own.
What can I learn from this? This is a bit of a cheat question, as these are all boundaries I was already well aware of before Saturday. But as I said, I'm showing how I solved for x here. Using the information above, I know that my boundaries should include:
01. Putting Myself First.
By this point in my life, I know that when I'm not putting my own needs first, everything else around me starts to fall apart. Trying to shoulder someone else's emotional load on a day I was supposed to be dedicating to myself --during a time I was meant to be using for self care--was a bad choice.
I also know by this point in my life that I need to be in the right head space when dealing with someone else's problems. If I feel too scatterbrained, or tired, or angry, or un-centered, I know two things will occur: 1) I won't be giving good advice, and 2) I'll be taking on too much of someone else's emotion. Which is especially chaotic when I'm already in the middle of trying to sort out and deal with my own emotions.
02. No (Emotional) Scrubs.
My time and advice is valuable. I know this, because people actively seek both out.
I believe all relationships should be reciprocal in some form or another. If someone doesn't appreciate my advice enough to take it, I should not give it. If someone doesn't respect my time enough not to waste it, I should not offer it.