Are you the person everyone goes to for advice?
Do others talk your ear off, but forget to ask how you’re doing?
Do they ask you for rides or money, but never offer?
Are you sick and tired of feeling emotionally drained by others?
As a natural helper, healer, people pleaser and/or empath, you may be so used to being there for others that you forget about yourself. You may feel that you don’t have time or bandwidth to care for yourself.
The reality is, it’s impossible to give quality support when you’re also feeling overwhelmed. It’s important to put yourself first sometimes, so that you can fully show up for the people you care about. And of course, because your well-being is just as important as anyone else’s!
So without further ado, here are 3 tips to help you set emotional boundaries with yourself and others.
Tip #1 – Say “no” when you aren’t available!
You may feel as though it’s their obligation to drop everything to be there for loved ones in crisis. Guess what? It isn’t.
Saying no to a request doesn’t make you a bad family member or person. It just means you can’t be available to everyone at all times. It would be totally unreasonable for anyone to expect that of you.
Being unavailable might mean that you have other plans or obligations. But it might also mean that you are emotionally unavailable. It’s okay if you can’t be there for someone because you’re tired, or sick, or just wanting to relax for a little bit.
Ways to say no:
- “I’d love to help, but I’m really busy.”
- “I wish I could, but I have a prior obligation.”
- “It’s not a good time.”
- “That doesn’t work for me.”
- “That’s not in my wheelhouse.”
- “I can’t right now.”
Ways to set limits without saying no:
- “I’m not available now, but I could help on (suggest another day / time that works better for you).”
- “I can give you 15 minutes.”
- “Even though I can’t help you by (doing exactly what they’re requesting), I can…”
- “Why don’t you ask (name of someone else who could help)?”
Tip #2 – Do not back down.
When you start setting boundaries, people are probably going to push back. Please? Just this one time? Why can’t you?
Stick to your guns! Use the ‘broken record’ technique – repeat yourself over and over and over until they get give up. Validate that you know they’re disappointed but unfortunately, you still cannot carry out their request.
Do not allow yourself to be swayed by anger, guilt trips, the cold shoulder, or other tactics.
If you back down, you will only encourage them to push back on your boundaries again in the future. On the other hand, if you stay firm, they’ll learn to respect your boundaries.
Tip #3 – Use your “me” time well
Many helpers and healers feel guilty taking time to relax. We may feel as though we should be using the time to help someone or accomplish something.
Making time for self-care is an important boundary to set with ourselves.
Self-care is not just about making the time, but also using it effectively.
If you spend a lot of your “down time” watching distressing or anxiety-provoking T.V. shows, reading the news, getting into arguments with people on the internet, or venting or ruminating, your emotional wellness probably will not be replenished.
Set emotional boundaries with yourself by doing more things that bring you joy and peace. Going for a walk, watching uplifting T.V. shows, thinking about what you’re grateful for, taking a nap, creating art… whatever leaves you feeling better about yourself and the world.
Remember: saying no does not make you selfish.
Saying no makes you a human being with many obligations, yourself being one of them. That is perfectly reasonable and okay. So set emotional boundaries to preserve your own well-being, as well as the health of your relationships.
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