It’s funny how we can go through life being totally oblivious to some of the ways we trip ourselves up or get in our own way.
That’s why I think therapy is such a great idea. It’s like someone kindly props a mirror up in front of us and gently shows us where we have been going wrong all this time.
For instance, I have recently come to learn that I am not very good at setting boundaries in relationships, due to the fact that I’m a run-of-the-mill people pleaser.
I have this deeply entrenched fear of disappointing people and this fear leads me to do almost anything in my power to avoid letting people down.
I am a gentle, quiet person so it is easy for me to get bowled over by stronger personalities. Like those who are louder, more confident or more forceful with their opinions than me.
It is much easier for those of us who are quiet people to just let things slide rather than face the potential embarrassment, fuss or arguments that speaking up may entail.
But without setting boundaries in relationships, this need to please can get us into some rather sticky situations.
We end up agreeing to go to places we really don’t enjoy and spending time with people we would really rather not. We end up stretching ourselves too thin and not leaving enough time for the things we truly enjoy. We end up wasting months and years of our lives trying to be something we are not.
So why are we so afraid of disappointing people?
What I think it comes down to is the fact that most of us are looking for belonging. What we want most of all, is to fit in, to be accepted and loved.
Therefore, we try to avoid doing anything that might jeopardize that.
We are scared that if we disappoint someone we might lose their validation. We might end up being alone. We might be misunderstood and left out in the future.
But here is the truth: Disappointment is part of adulthood.
Part of life is coming to terms with the fact you might not get everything that you want. We have to learn to cope with being disappointed by other people.
What is important to remember is that we cannot be everything for everyone and therefore, we will disappoint people.
You may like to look at setting boundaries in relationships as a radical act of self-care. Daring to put your needs, feelings and self above the comfort and security of keeping others happy.
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” – Brene Brown
How to start setting boundaries in relationships:
First of all, you need to allow yourself to take up space in this world. That means being proud and unashamed of who you are.
For example, I have this weird thing about cutlery where I cannot stand using a knife and a fork that don’t match. I know it is a little nutty but when I try to be cool and let it slide, I just feel uncomfortable and don’t enjoy my meal as much.
But I am learning that part of loving myself is indulging these quirks and being okay with the way that I am, weird cutlery issues and all!
We deserve to eat with matching cutlery if that is what makes us happy. We deserve to wear the polka dot skirt if that makes us feel fabulous. We deserve to dance to that music that nobody else gets if that puts us in a good mood.
You are fine just the way you are. Celebrate you. Accept you.
Put it into practice: Start owning those little quirks that make you who you are instead of feeling embarrassed by them.
Consider your own needs
Something that has felt so freeing for me is to recognise that my voice, opinions and feelings are valid.
For a long time I have been afraid of rocking the boat, of making waves or being a nuisance so I have stayed quiet and withdrawn rather than speaking my mind.
My first instinct is to go along with what others say or want, without giving any consideration to how I am feeling or the fact that I can say ‘NO.’
Setting boundaries in relationships is important for protecting yourself. It’s about being aware of your needs and how any given situation makes you feel. It is about stopping to consider what terms and conditions you might need to put in place so that you feel comfortable.
Put it into practice: Next time someone asks something of you, stop and consider your needs before automatically agreeing.
Communicate your needs
I’m no relationship expert but I have come to learn that communication is one of the most important things in healthy relationships.
It is so easy to misunderstand someone and to allow resentment to build up if you don’t clear the air on a frequent basis. The power of vulnerability is that it gives us an opportunity to confront problems before they get bottled up.
First things first, you have to know yourself and what you need.
If it is really important to you that your significant other shows up to watch your important event, then tell them. If something your mum said really upset you, then let her know how her words made you feel.
Put it into practice: Be vulnerable and share your needs or feelings with someone today.
I heard a quote recently that has stuck with me…
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell
A lot of people are afraid of growing older but I think the older I get, the more I am becoming my true self.
With age comes this deeper understanding of who we are and what we need to be happy. And we become less willing to compromise on our happiness as we did when we were younger.
But we don’t have to wait until we get older to start practicing self care and setting boundaries in our relationships. Let’s start now by putting these little steps into practice each day. Let’s choose to love ourselves even if that means disappointing others.