How often are you certain you know what something means and then realize you weren’t clear about it after all? I think that is what happens around the subject of self-care. In my last column, I said this next one would explore boundaries. And what I have come to see is that the ability to set clear boundaries in our lives is, in actuality, a form of self-care.
Have you ever been asked to keep a secret?
The person asking you to do that has her reasons, surely, but what kind of burden does that put on you? Are you responsible for other people’s difficulties/problems/scenarios? And, there are lots of kinds of secrets! It could be a secret surprise someone is planning for her husband and yes, you could keep that one easily. But what if it is something that involves a much deeper commitment on your part?
What if someone is considering suicide and tells you then makes you promise to keep it a secret? That puts what I consider an undue burden on you! You are being asked to put your feelings on the subject aside and honor a confidence that could damage many people’s lives. Is that fair? I say no. Are you a therapist? Coach? Mentor for this person? Or are you getting dragged into a situation that is untenable for you?
Maybe that is too dire a scenario to consider, but I’ve seen it happen! Or what if she tells you she’s having an affair and you mustn’t tell anyone. But every time you see her and her husband socially, you cringe because you know something…. and you don’t know how to act around him! Is that fair?
Another common problem: An out of town friend says she’s coming to visit and wants to stay with you. You feel obligated to offer accommodations, even if you aren’t really relishing the idea of her company for several days.
Do you say yes? Or do you take a deep breath and let her know that it isn’t really convenient for you, however, you’d love to spend some time with her while she’s in town. Maybe a lunch or dinner? An afternoon tea?
I recently wrote this statement: Women are acculturated to cooperate, step back, and let others go first.
Is that you? If you’re over 50, the likelihood of that being ingrained in you is high. Many of us are from the “children should be seen and not heard” generation! We were taught to serve. Save a few extremely independent women who somehow escaped that and expect the world to serve them, most of my friends struggle with this on a regular basis.
I’m not saying we ALL have every one of the above issues, but I fully admit I have had each of them at one time in my life. My great fortune is that I chose to keep challenging myself by trying to coach other people about their lives, and it has put me on a path of self-assessment that I hope continues for the rest of my life.
When someone asks me what to do about a situation, at the same time I’m working on it with her, I’m teaching myself what I need to learn; I often say my clients pay me to do my work! It’s because I have spent years studying human behavior that I know if I’m presented with a problem, it is also mine. It may not be in the same form, but it applies to me in some way.
Fortunately, my own coaches and teachers have helped me on this journey. Here are some really insightful things I have learned:
All of this is about setting boundaries. Doing what works for YOU. Think back over times when you said yes, and you could have said no. If you could have a do-over, would you make the same choice? Could you get really good about setting clear boundaries for yourself? What kind of difference would it make in your life?