No they aren’t, are they?
I have been a people pleaser for much of my life. It’s a difficult behaviour to unlearn, in all honesty, which is why I say "have been" as opposed to "was" because like anything growth-related, it's a work-in-progress; and though I'll readily admit that I have made tremendous progress, it will never be perfect, nor is that the goal here. In my experience, many of us are just “trained” that way. Over time, I realized I was living my life for others and not myself. As my awareness around this grew, being liked became less and less important than protecting my own energy so that I could continue to learn and grow.
For women especially, we have been taught to tone ourselves down - to tame ourselves - and to always be “nice”; to say yes when we really want to say no; and ultimately surrender our inner power... and so we learned through modeling that this is the way to building relationships (a lie!). What we end up doing is participating and contributing to dysfunction in relationships; ultimately depleting our reserves in all areas, becoming emotionally, physically, and energetically exhausted in the process.
Setting boundaries might seem counterintuitive in context to building healthy relationships; like we’re putting up a wall to disconnect from others, but on the contrary they help us to better connect in more authentic meaningful ways with one another. Healthy boundaries give us agency over our own energy and physical space. They empower us to take charge of our life; to be the proactive captain of the ship navigating with resilience, rather than be a reactionary victim of its sinking.
If we wait for a relationship to go sideways before recognizing we failed to set boundaries, we forego the opportunity to create a healthy foundation to build upon, and it can easily turn into a constant tug of war from that point onwards. Having boundaries in place allows for both a healthier and smoother experience navigating all relationships - both personal and professional.
Boundaries aren’t a fixed stone wall, but rather an imaginary line in place that helps us maintain a safe space of energetic exchange with others. They also alert us when/where we are approaching the point giving up too much of our mental or emotional energy in order to tend to others’ needs - sacrificing our own well being for another’s. When sacrifice enters the equation, it can ultimately lead to resentment on both ends and can quickly turn into an unhealthy co-dependent dynamic.
That’s not to say our boundaries can’t be flexible either; but having them in place and being consistently conscious of them allows us to have the choice either way. This is an ongoing practice that allows us the space to ground to find stability, so that we can be more intentional rather than reactionary in our relationship dynamics. Boundaries allow us the space to grow and to be vulnerable when we choose to be; when we feel it’s safe to be.
Having our own boundaries, allows us to recognize others’ boundaries as well: helping us pick up social cues, being more respectful of others’ energetic space by asking if we can share, rather than simply dumping our emotions and energy; and being more aware and inclusive of all experiences and neurodiversity.
Setting our own and honouring others’ healthy boundaries are a necessary self-care practice for all of us. It’s an essential part of the process of our own growth, but ultimately its benefits are destined to improve our interpersonal relationships of all kinds - love, work, family, friends etc. All of this improves the potential for expansion and growth, as individuals and in community. No boundaries don’t set themselves, but it does get easier and less uncomfortable – like anything – the more you practice.
image via We’re Not Really Strangers
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