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Wow! What an amazing response to my last post on boundaries. By popular demand, here is Boundaries part 2: Keeping your boundaries with friends (and family).  

But before I start, thank you so much to all of you who took the time to wish me a happy birthday last week. I was really touched by your messages.  

Keeping your boundaries with friends and family is probably one of the most difficult things to do:  Our natural wish to support those we love combines with the way we women are raised to serve others to make it all too easy to go too far and hurt ourselves in the process.  

Remember that you cannot help others if you haven't taken care of yourself first: On planes, the safety instructions tell you to put your oxygen mask on BEFORE helping anyone else, including your children. There's a reason for it: if you help others first, chances are you won't have enough energy left to put your own mask on afterwards, and will lose consciousness and/or die. On the other hand, once you have your mask on, you can keep helping others for as long as they need it.  

It's the same with our energy: If we have a steady supply of it (i.e. if we take care of ourselves), then we can help people forever; but if we help people first, there's often not enough energy to take care of ourselves, and that's when illnesses, fatigue, the blues, and burnout set in.

This being said, how do you do to make sure you don't let yourself get depleted by your friends and family?  

-First identify those people who suck the life force out of you. If you pay attention to how you feel, you'll find that some people drain you: every time you interact with them, you feel most tired/sad/angry than you were before – I call them the energy vampires. Other people, on the other hand, leave you feeling refreshed, happy, more positive – they are your battery-replenishers. Keep the latter, and try to avoid the former as much as possible. When I started eliminating the energy vampires from my life, I saw a huge difference in my energy and happiness!  

-What about the people you can't eliminate from your life (family, for instance)? Place specific boundaries with them: see them less often; see them only with other people present. To give you a personal example, I had issues with a close family member for a long time, someone who was very cutting, critical and mean to me when we were in private (i.e. just him, his wife and me). So I did two things: I limited the number of times I would see him to once every two months at most, and our meetings always involved friends or other family members. This gave me the space I needed to stop being hurt, and eventually heal myself.  

-Find out who among your friends just ask from you, and never give back. It may be the friend who's always asking for a favor, but when you need help, is never there. Or the neighbor who conveniently always shows up at 6 pm, right when you're about to sit down for dinner, and you always invite him or her. Just start to say no to their requests, nicely but firmly. Remember, "no" is a full sentence, and doesn't need any embellishment, excuse or explanation.  

-Start setting time for you, and keep this time as sacred, not to be disturbed no matter what. You wouldn't even think of canceling an appointment with a friend to see another one (unless there is an emergency). Why do you do it when the appointment is with yourself? Start treating yourself the way you treat your best friend...  

Let me know how these steps work for you! Next post, I'll look at boundaries at work, another potential hornets nest...  



Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Denise Richardson wrote Mar 9, 2009
    • WOW! Karin thank you so much for this post it is so true and to the point it has reaffirmed a lot of the changes I’ve made in my life as far as relationships and boundaries, I’m even more encouraged by your words, thank again.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Angeldove wrote Apr 7, 2009
    • Karin, I just read this for the first time.  It is wonderful.  I have had to distance myself from some people in my life.  It was very difficult to do (as one was my son and his wife), however, I am a much happier and relaxed person.  My daughter says she not only loves her mom now, she really really likes her and enjoys being around her.  Hmmmmm, I must finally be doing something right.  Thanks again for your wonderful words.


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