Do you ever feel like people take advantage of you? Here's how to set some boundaries.
Hello and welcome to episode 9 of the burnout brigade, can you believe it's been 9 WHOLE episodes? If you've listened a long with me then thank you so much. Today I'm going to be talking about boundaries and how without them it can sometimes feel like people are taking advantage of you and how much you give in your relationships at work and also at home and in your personal relationships.
I used to think that good customer service meant having no boundaries
I used to think that being a good friend meant having no boundaries
I used to think that being a hard worker meant having no boundaries
I used to think that being a good partner meant having no boundaries
What does this look like? If you like to be there for people and be a reliable pillar of support regardless of your own wants and needs, this applies to you.
A few examples of this are: answering emails and messages as soon as you receive them - even when you're in bed, about to go to sleep or out with friends.
Offering to hold space for a friend and being available to talk to them about their problems when you are not in a good head space yourself and need to be alone.
Working late to get things done when you have to leave for an appointment, offering to take on extra tasks despite already being stressed or finding yourself being the only one that does tasks that are meant to be evenly distributed by a group.
Not communicating your needs in a relationship, agreeing to go out to a fast food place when you're on a diet, or maybe taking on more of the mental & physical labour of childcare & household chores
Being a kind and caring person is great and maybe you love that people think that you are reliable and it gives you great satisfaction to help people but this can often be unsustainable when you do it even when it is at the detriment of your own well being.
In all of the above examples that I've used you can see that each action to help someone else has a direct negative effect on the person that is helping/doing the good deed.
If done continuously you might feel good in the short term and like you are in control but after a while it can almost create a dependency where you feel like if you actually need to take a break, you can't.
You feel like the whole world is on your shoulders, like everyone is relying on you and like you can't possibly ask for help because it is your duty and responsibility to do ALL of the things. The ceiling will collapse in on you if you aren't the one holding things up.
And how does this then start to make you feel towards the people that you don't want to let down? Well it makes you feel like they are letting you down - and that they should know not to burden you, they should know that you don't have the time for this extra task, they should be more considerate - after all, they know you have an appointment after work so why would they even ask if you could do this extra task? They should know that you are also going through a rough time and they shouldn't be venting or ranting to you. They shouldn't be emailing you so late.
If the help seems to always be one way it can even make you feel resentful and exhausted of everyone you know and love.
But here's the thing you would think they would know these things but they actually don't. This is actually a learned mechanism called 'mind reading'. It's when you have learnt that your needs aren't that important so you can't ask for them to be met so instead you hope that by mind reading & pleasing others - your need will then be met in return.
But you can't control the will of other peoples actions - only your own. So that's where we come to the next part... BOUNDARES BABY.
Sounds exhausting, right?
Do not panic, now that you are aware of this - putting some boundaries in place will most certainly reduce your stress, your mental load and make you feel empowered because, I can vouch for this - looking after yourself feels great.
1.) Protect your time. Spend some time finding out what is absolutely non-negotiable in order for you to feel good and protect the absolute shit out of this time. Often if you are a conscientious person by being on demand when people need you, you will find that actually by answering emails, messages, requests etc you will have trained them to expect access to you immediately.
Start by setting their expectations, set up an out of office for the hours that you have decided that you won't be instantly accessible, create an auto responder - publish your office hours in your signature, sing it to the heavens that you are unavailable and stick to this.
2.) Make good on your word - if you set a boundary, the unfortunate thing is that people will not always follow it. After all, if things have worked a certain way for such a long time - why would it suddenly now be different? Work through the discomfort, understand that people will be resistant but the good eggs will understand and well... if someone is being a twat about it, is that really someone that you want to be associating with?
3.) Practice saying no. If you're like me and absolutely detest being disliked, this can be so hard and if you've gone such a long time not setting boundaries - it can be so scary to feel like you're letting someone down.
Remember saying no to something means saying yes to yourself. If you are struggling to set boundaries, start small - say no to small things and then work your way up to the bigger things, a no to going out for drinks because you're tired today - tomorrow a no to that big project that you don't have time for.
Remember that setting boundaries is hard and you won't always get it right, even if your voice shakes and it comes out wrong - you are still making progress.
4.) Set boundaries with /yourself/. If you feel like you're letting people come before you - do the hard work and ask yourself why? What am I afraid of? You can journal this out - it will be specific varying from person to person.
For example if you've come to the realization that you fear being disliked, you can counter act this by thinking about why YOU like yourself.
Or if someone /DOES/ dislike you, think about what you think of /them/. Is this someone that you want in your life?
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Until next time!