AMA 2: Boundaries & Struggle
Forgive my mini-tirade on Self Care
Part Two of Ask Me Anything is about the struggle to set healthy boundaries and care for yourself. Read on. Click here to ask me anything!
Note: You’ll notice both questions are about setting and holding boundaries. However, they focus on two different concepts of the practice. This is why I address them separately.
Q: How do you set boundaries for self care and stick to them? Sometimes it can feel like letting others down when making choices for myself.
A: Self-care is such an “in” phrase, isn’t it? I say it a lot. Why did we suddenly decide that self-care was a cool thing to care about?
Why did we ever think it wasn’t?? Why should we apologize for taking care of ourselves?
And yet we do.
In her interview with Andrew Huberman, Dr. Anna Lembke (Dopamine Nation) discusses addiction. She points out that, culturally, some addictions are “bad” (gambling, drugs). Some, however, are prized–namely, being addicted to working. Long hours at the office, foregoing vacation, etc, show dedication and discipline.
Women often get a double-whammy of expectations here. Many people conflate full-time parenting with not working. Since when did a role which required you to be “on” every hour of the day not qualify as work? Not only are women expected to be both mother and employee, we’re expected to want to do both and be thrilled about it.
Are you kidding me?
Wait. It gets better.
The icing on this hot mess cake is the comparison game society plays. It pits us against each other in an unwinnable tallying contest.
Self care? Why do you need self care?
- You’re child free. You have it so easy.
- You’re a stay at home mom. You don’t have to worry about work.
- You have a partner to help with parenting. You don’t have to shoulder the whole burden.
- You earn $$$$. Nothing is a struggle for you.
- You don’t work and your children are grown. Obviously you have nothing but free time.
How dare we deny our fellow humans the right to take care of themselves? Why do we vilify the need to check in on our own wellbeing?
Sorry, lovely person who asked this question. I’ve gone on a tirade. Let me return to your query, which is actually a 2-part answer. First part is setting a self care routine and sticking to it. Second part is how others feel.
Self care will never happen if you don’t make it a conscious part of your schedule. Whatever your self-care routine is, it must be budgeted into your day or week. Once that happens, it becomes like any other item on your calendar: “I’m sorry, I’m not available at that time.” You block off time for all sorts of things, usually pertaining to others. Block off this time for you. Be clear that you’re unavailable, but do not feel the need to explain why. It is not their time, and their opinions are not invited. When your self-care time begins, take a moment to breathe deeply and remind yourself that you have permission to take this time. Everything that needs doing will wait for this hour.
The other part, how others feel about it, is largely in your head. If you are clear about when you are and are not free to interact, people accept it. They don’t feel let down. Letdown comes when you’re unclear or wishy-washy about your availability.
Think about it this way: you don’t get disappointed if you can’t call your friend after 9pm because you know it’s her bedtime, right? You know it. Not a big deal. Why would you be mad about that?
Then why would anyone be mad simply because you’re not at their beck and call?
Q: How do you cope with holding a boundary? I have been feeling lately that everyone is asking and wanting so much from me that I just don’t have. Everyone wants their pound of flesh. Most [people] may take it as feeling wanted, but I feel like I’m being taken advantage of… [I’m] a [people] pleaser, a ‘yes’ person. Even if my guts are hanging out, I’ll help you.
What tools can I use after holding a healthy boundary to fight that feeling and anxiety that ultimately drives me to want to go back on myself?
A: This isn’t about self-care. This is about giving too much of yourself away, about energetic boundaries and what we allow others access to.
But again I see two parts. First, love, I suggest you get crystal-freaking-clear on what’s a yes and a no for you. Write it down in your journal. Know what you are and are not offering others.
Second, I’d suggest you consider the bonds you’re maintaining. It sounds like some might need pruning. If you’re surrounded by people who can’t hear “no,” then it’s time to look at that. Emotionally healthy people respect boundaries without seeing it as an attack. Stable friends understand each other’s needs for self care (there’s that phrase again!) and don’t see it as neglect.
So, if the people surrounding you are all energy vampires, it might be time to take stock. Gaslighting is so easily disguised as being “in crisis.” If your boundaries aren’t respected, you’re being manipulated.
Good news is, you also get to draw that line and walk away.
Q: Omg I am struggling so bad right now. I am in such dark place I am confused frustrated I literally don't feel there is enough time in the day. I'm so frickn lost and overwhelmed with life I literally feel as though I'm severely failing in life.
A: This message makes me so sad. :( All I can tell you, and I know it’s not helpful, is that I see you. I feel what you’re going through, even though I’m not living your experience.
I’m living my own.
And I have certainly been buffeted by waves of despair and frustration. I know how it feels to not have your feet under you. I know too how it feels to think you’re gaining a little traction–only to get knocked back down again.
Just remember: the wheel of life turns. This down spot that you’re in now allows joys to come to be even sweeter because you know what struggle really is. And, in the here and now, be open to opportunities you might never have imagined. In struggle and pain, there are lessons. What will you learn? How will you stay true to your unique self and find your stable ground?
Sending you supportive vibes.