It’s not a lot to ask for, just a little space.
Yes, I still want to be a part of your life. And yes, I care about you. But I need my space, too. It sounds selfish when I say it out loud.
Even thinking I must sometimes say no is not in my DNA. I have been programmed from an early age to say yes. If you ask me to jump, often it is not just yes, but “how high.”
That doesn’t set a clear boundary.
Where do I stop and everyone else begins? This is a fundamental right of every individual, to do the things they need to do to survive, and perhaps even thrive. The lines have gotten so blurred over my lifetime that I am not sure what or who I really am.
I still bristle at using the term “self-care.“
Yet taking care of myself is something I do. And in many ways, I do it well. My diet is better these days. I eat breakfast every morning. This is a huge change from earlier years. I would start my day with coffee, then maybe some water. I would ignore any cravings for food until I got home. Then I would eat, eat, eat, have dessert, then go to bed.
My body never got a chance to digest the food I ate so late in the day.
And while I wasn’t gaining a ton of weight, I did not feel very healthy. My energy would dip in the afternoon, and I am sure I was less productive, although, at the time, I couldn’t see that.
Treating myself better, with the intention of leading a more balanced life for the next 30 years, includes putting a little slack in the chain*.
When the chain is taught, I am less able to see the big picture. I become irritable, susceptible to triggers that begin to lead me back towards depression. These revelations only took me 43+ years to say out loud. I am sure there were times where I voiced these, at least in passing, but it was never a clear path or an organized plan.
Having slack in the chain is also making me face my imposter syndrome. My ability to accept myself as the unique individual that I am leaves me thinking I don’t need that slack. When I am getting down on myself, and “shoulding” on myself, I am less able to see the value in self-care, in having some slack in the chain.
It’s not that I don’t care, I feel I just don’t deserve personal space, any slack in the chain.
My MO over the years has been to push forward, concealing every inch of my depression, every iota of my insecurities, all traces of my doubt about my true self. This over the top confidence has left me with little sense of who I really am.
I was very good at minimizing or even ignoring anything that wasn’t positive. This was true even when it would have helped me be better. I was so worried about not being success conscious, that I could not let myself achieve success. Or if I did, I was certain that I did not deserve it. Not me, after all “it’s my job, everyone would do that.”
Of course, that is not true.
Many people would not and do not do what I do. And my perception that everyone does what I would do leaves me disappointed when they go after their own self-interest, ignoring, in my view, the needs of the many. I am projecting my ideas onto them and building a scenario in my head that is not based on what is happening.
When I feel I do not deserve something, I am really saying I do not value myself.
Over the years, this strategy has not ended well. Not backing myself up, not being in it for me, has led me to overextend myself to achieve things for others. The whole idea about this can get screwed up in my head, because doing things for others, in my opinion, is not a bad thing.
Now I see that there is merit to setting boundaries.
Once again, I go back to the flight attendant reminding me to put my own oxygen mask on, before helping others. This is not easy for me to do. I have metaphorically held my breath until I ran out of air, many, many times, trying to help others first. I can’t keep doing that.
Today, and every day going forward, I value myself and I value the slack in the chain.
Are you setting boundaries?
*Many thanks to Dr. Moody of Region Ten Community Board for the original idea.