What comes to your mind when you hear these quotes? “Givers need to set limits because takers rarely do,” by Rachel Wolchin. “You can lie down for people to walk on you, and they will still complain that you’re not flat enough,” by Mature Gambino. “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” “Taking good care of you, means the people in your life will receive the best of you, rather than what’s left of you,” by Carl Bryan
What comes to my mind is the need for setting boundaries. Communicating one’s needs/wants/desires may sound simple enough. Unfortunately, for most of us, it is not as simple as saying, “I am hungry and need food,” or, “I am exhausted and should rest.” For many of us, creating and maintaining healthy boundaries can be frustrating, confusing, and uncomfortable. Why is this? The people we need to communicate boundaries with are usually those we love or care about the most. We truly have other’s best interests at heart. We care, deeply. However, think of the example of if a plane loses cabin pressure, the oxygen masks come down, and we must put the oxygen masks first on ourselves and second on the person next to us, including if that person is our child. That example helps to put boundary setting into perspective. We literally cannot survive and thrive if we do not focus on our own needs first.
It’s okay to say, “No.” It’s okay to practice self-care, to practice self-love, and to put your needs and wants first sometimes. This is not selfish. In fact, it communicates and models to others how to love yourself and how to care about your physical and mental health first so that you will have enough energy and time to care for others. I’ve used the analogy of having a glass plate that you continue to place more food on top of to the point of the plate cracking under extreme pressure. Keep placing more food on top, and the cracked plate will break into pieces. I challenge you to start tracking the pieces of food you place on your plate. You can keep a log or write a list of your relationships, priorities, and responsibilities. Think about where your time and energy are going. Are you receiving around the same amount of time and energy back from your relationships? Are you scheduling “me time” into your busy week? Is your plate beginning to crack from saying, “Yes,” to so many things or saying, "No," to your own needs? Or do you think you have found a healthy balance? Life isn’t perfect. There are times when we might have an even balance, but then something happens, and life gets heavy. That’s okay too. Learn to rest, not quit.
If you are interested in reading more about what boundaries are and how to communicate your own needs and wants, here are a couple great book suggestions: “Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day,” by Anne Katherine and, “Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin: How to Recognize and Set Healthy Boundaries,” by Anne Katherine. My own therapist asked me one time, “If no one is looking out for you, then who is?”