Last month I attended a self-care session hosted by one of my favorite authors, Alex Elle. The event was co-hosted by writer and poet Ajolique Jude, and calligraphy artist Josefina Sanders. The event was beautiful, to say the least, and it was filled with sisterhood, self-love, and writing, lots of writing. Both Alex and Ajolique provided attendees with different journaling prompts to take home with the intention of furthering our self-care practices.
A few days after the event, I found myself going through the materials provided trying to find a prompt because I felt the need to journal as a release –– but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to write about. As I sorted through, one of Ajolique's prompts jumped out to me, and it read:
“Are you really selfish or have people just resisted the boundaries you’ve communicated?”
That. was. a. trigger.
These past few months of my life have been heavily defined by a reoccurring theme: boundaries. A few months ago, after several sessions with my therapist and admittedly several failed (or what I thought to be failed) interpersonal relationships, I realized that I was not setting any boundaries for myself, let alone for others to adhere to. So as with any monumental life change/transition, I decided to make a list. I made a list of all the boundaries I wanted to set for myself and others around me. The list included things as small as practicing saying “no” to something I did not necessarily want to do, to something as big as not allowing the emotional baggage of others to consume me to a point that wasn't sustainable for me.
Initially setting these boundaries was pretty easy, I was able to stick to them (for the most part), and I began to notice a gradual change in my overall attitude toward life –– I became more joyous. However, the more I decided to adhere to the boundaries I set, the more I noticed how others around me would resist. I knew placing specific limitations for myself based on what I needed would be transformative for my life, but I never stopped to take into account how others would receive them or react.
I started to notice a trend. If my actions were not directly benefiting a person in my life, they were quick to either 1) call me selfish or 2) guilt trip me into doing something for their benefit. Initially, I felt the need to explain myself and even overcompensate for my sudden change in behavior. However, the more I tried to please others the more I found myself losing the joy that took me so long to manifest. Then I realized I was right back at square one.
It is not uncommon to hear that there is a need for us to be intentional about taking good care of ourselves, but what usually is left out of the conversation is the resistance from others that can come in response. Creating and establishing your boundaries is not a necessarily easy process for our immediate environment(s) because people have a hard time accepting change –– especially change that does not benefit them.
The reality of wanting to make necessary positive changes in your life is that there will be hurdles, and we must meet them with a will to overcome. If you are having trouble or simply do not know where to start when it comes to setting boundaries, I encourage you to follow these 3 steps that I found most valuable in my own exploration.
observe: Are you experiencing similar issues in different areas of your life? Take the time to be critical in an effort to find common themes that may need a new approach. Through the observation lens, you will learn what specific boundaries you need to set.
Communicate: Ultimately, you are not in this alone. Once you have identified areas of your life that you would like to improve by setting boundaries, make time to have comprehensive conversations with the right people so that everybody can be on the same page moving forward. Always remember that transparency is key.
Implement: Ready.. Set.. Go! It is time to start living by those boundaries you have set for yourself and others around you. People will only take you as seriously as you take yourself.
I urge you to be steadfast about the things that you desire because it is ultimately up to you to create the life that you want. A tough consideration that is critical to our understanding is that if the people in your life cannot seem to respect and adhere to the boundaries that you have set maybe those are people that shouldn't be in your life. Creating the life that you want means surrounding yourself with people who respect you and genuinely want the best for you.