Long time no blog. Let's talk about boundaries.
Well hello there. Sorry for the lapse in blogs. But did you really miss hearing from me? You did? Oh bless your heart.
Thought I'd take a moment and talk about boundaries. It was one of my mindful minutes from back in May during #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth (which should really be EVERY month.)
Boundaries in sports are important. It creates a space that you must stay within to keep the game going. If the ball goes out of bounds, the team who had possession now must surrender the ball to the other team. Respecting the boundaries in sports, means you are respecting your team and adherence to the rules.
The same goes for boundaries you set in your own life. Lines that you are not willing to cross because of your PERSONAL rules.
Here are some examples of personal boundaries:
- Saying "No" to plans.
- Ignoring a phone call when you are doing something else.
- Not tolerating hate speech / rude people.
- Suggesting a new topic when politics or religion are brought up.
- Stepping away from an unhealthy relationship, hobby, or unhappy job.
- Limiting your time on social media / the internet.
Notice a pattern here? All of these things would make you happier, right? But we are often reluctant to do these things.
Not because of how it will benefit you, but because of how it will be perceived by someone else - or how it affects someone else. Which - say it with me - has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.
Stop being a people pleaser.
When you don't create healthy boundaries, you are becoming a people pleaser, which is a big problem for most empathetic people - like me. You fear that you will be judged by the other party, so rather than drawing a line in the sand for the sake of your own sanity, you cave to the other person and reluctantly agree to go along with whatever it is that you don't REALLY want to do...now you've just sacrificed your own personal self worth for the sake of someone else's happiness. Jeez - when I type it like that - I can't help but think that maybe I need to set more boundaries in MY life.
Setting boundaries is easier said than done.
I recently set some in my own personal life, and they were tough decisions. I walked away from some obligations that I had put upon myself initially as a way to channel my grief. But as I traveled through my grief journey, it became apparent that those obligations I took upon myself were no longer benefiting me mentally, and were causing more mental stress and anxiety than necessary. I'll just say what they were - a board position with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and a peer facilitator for a local support group. Were those both healthy activities? Sure. I took them on because I am passionate about mental health, and I wanted to jump head first into advocacy - no matter what the cost. Mental health be damned. But like I said - as time went on, I realized that I did not NEED to be in these situations anymore - at least - not in the full capacity that I was volunteering. I can still be involved with mental health AND AFSP without being on a board with so many responsibilities. I feel my talents are better served doing things like this, speaking openly and honestly about mental health. I can still be involved, I just don't have to be involved on a day to day basis.
You will let people down.
But that's okay. I let some people down when I made my decision to step away from the board of AFSP - but you know what? I explained what I was going through, stood my ground, and simply explained that what I was doing is what was best for ME and MY personal mental health. Guess what? They totally understood. They were bummed, but understood that I was doing something for ME. The same thing will happen to you when you begin setting boundaries for yourself. You will let people down, you will disappoint, but at the end of the day, you will have your head held high. You will have a renewed sense of self worth, and self respect. Those who are bummed at your personal boundaries will move past their feelings of being let down.
You WILL notice an increase in self confidence.
There's something liberating about telling someone "No." Comedian John Mulaney sums it up hilariously in the first minute of this bit (watch more if you like, the dude is one of my favorite comedians.)
The boundaries I was just telling you about that I set for MYSELF, have freed up my mental space so much more. I'm able to focus at work more, I'm able to do more self care activities, I'm exercising regularly, revisiting some of my old favorite hobbies like guitar and writing, and I'm an overall happier and healthier person...you know, despite the whole state of the world at the moment...but I know I made the right decision. I know it in my gut, and you will too once you set your OWN personal boundaries.
So to wrap this up. Don't be afraid of setting boundaries. you can start small by ignoring a phone call you don't want to have at the moment. Or simply saying "No" to an event invite. Or turning off your social media notifications (seriously try that one first - its awesome.)
One word of caution - make sure you aren't setting boundaries as a way to mask depression and isolation. If you become some sort of isolated creature who never leaves the house and says NO to everything, your friends might and SHOULD start to be concerned about you. It's a delicate balance, but once you find that sweet spot and draw those lines in your personal sandbox, you will find that your mental health will improve drastically, your relationships will improve drastically, and your world will improve drastically. Because you are finally standing up for YOURSELF, and doesn't it feel good to stand up for YOU?
Put yourself first. Draw some boundaries.