Today I had a session with a woman whose main role has been to be a mother to her son who is addicted to drugs. Over the past few months I've seen her mental health deteriorate as a result of his addiction, and today we talked about if she will ever be able to take care of herself while she is still being there as his safety net every single time he comes to her door; we pretty much agreed that she can't do both.
Earlier this week I also had a long conversation with a close friend about this desire to be close to a family member who often projects their own emotional baggage onto him, and how this urge to maintain this relationship and fulfill this role as "nurturer" for the family member was dragging down his energy, and making it hard for him to feel good about himself while being treated this way.
These recent talks have brought to the forefront the importance of boundaries: HEALTHY ones. And how difficult that is for alot of people! In both of the above situations, and with other friends and clients, I hear a similar theme. There is this expectation to be a good ________ (friend, mother, girlfriend, daughter, brother, etc.), you have to behave a certain way; you have to meet expectations. These expectations are often a result of this role that you have either built through habitual interactions, or a role that you were given just based on your family norms. When the person doesn't feel they are fulfilling that role of being "good", "available", "helping in anyway they can", the guilt comes in; either from the outside (other people guilt tripping them), or internally (not giving yourself permission to say no, because then you must be a "bad" friend/son/girlfriend/etc).
For the people who can't relate and have been taught healthy boundaries from an early age, lucky you! I don't know if that's the norm, but I know there are a hell of alot of people that struggle with this. So for those that have a hard time with it, I want to remind you that you are HUMAN! You have limits, and you have the absolute right to respect your own limits.
Sometimes, our focus is so external (on taking care of/pleasing others), we don't listen to ourselves. First step is, begin to notice what your limits are. When you say yes to something, how do you feel about it? Do you resent it or feel uncomfortable? Do you feel overextended? This may be such a familiar feeling that you believe you "just have to do it", but you don't actually have to! Begin to tune into what patterns you allow to repeat in your relationships, and how these patterns make you feel.
When you begin to push back against the norms of a relationship if those norms aren't serving you, you'll probably meet some resistance. If you don't keep doing what you "usually do" for that other person, they may not like it too much. And that's when assertiveness comes in. Noone else gets to dictate what is healthy for you, or what you deserve. You absolutely have a right to assertively set limits with those you love, and it doesn't mean you don't love them! It actually just means you love yourself.
These people that can sometimes drain you aren't "bad" people. And you probably care about them, alot. But we have a short time here on earth and do you want to live your life pleasing others? Or begin to learn what makes you happy, what lights you up, what raises your energy level? Sometimes to take those steps we have to set limits within our relationships so we don't become drained.
So, to my client, to my close friend, you loving, nurturing, big hearted humans, you will always be worthy, even when you say no to people you care about. You are allowed to say no, you are allowed to take time to yourself, to create some distance in your relationships for self care. Begin to do what you need to do to be your healthiest self, and that may mean shedding old habits, old relationships, and letting go of attempts to fulfill some "role" you were given when you were younger. Allow yourself to evolve into your best you, because you're the only one that can really give yourself permission to do that.
Light and love,