Setting boundaries starts with believing you’re worth it. Believing that you’re worth putting as a priority, and that you deserve to have your needs met. That means letting go of guilt and shame, and practicing turning toward yourself, even though it’s uncomfortable.
And, it will be uncomfortable. I’ve watched so many people work on saying “no” for the first time in their lives, and it’s not usually pleasant. “I feel so bad,” *Sarah told me, about saying no to extra hours at work. “It’s not like I’m physically unable to be there – I just don’t want to. Doesn’t this make me a selfish person?”
My answer is a resounding no. Listening to your limits and acting in line with them isn’t selfish – it’s self-sufficient. Being able to choose where we put our time and energy is a very healthy, adult thing to do.
Now, that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to feel selfish, or bad, or weird and uncomfortable. It actually makes sense that you would. We’ve all spent a lifetime learning to take care of everyone else before ourselves (especially those of us who’ve been socialized as female). We’ve been taught to be nice, and make others around us comfortable, and never to make waves. This all falls into the category of emotional labor, a form of labor that often goes unrecognized and unappreciated in our culture. We’re taught to do all these things at a detriment to ourselves.
So, when we start to turn toward ourselves, it’s no wonder it feels strange. It’s so contrary to much of what we’ve been taught. But feeling strange or weird or bad doesn’t mean you’re doing the wrong thing. The good news is that they more you practice turning toward yourself, the better and more normal it feels. I hear this from the people I work with all the time – the first time can feel really uncomfortable, but you survive it. The next time is a little bit easier, and the next time after that is even easier, and so on. You realize that the world doesn’t fall apart just because you have needs, too.
It turns out there’s of people who struggle with this… so I’m offering an entire group on the topic! Find out more here and don’t hesitate to share with a friend.
*not her real name
Nicole Perry is a Registered Psychologist and writer with a private practice in Edmonton. Her approach is collaborative and feminist at its heart. She specializes in healing trauma, building shame resilience, and setting boundaries.
About the Blog
This space will provide information, stories, and answers to big questions about some of my favorite topics - boundaries, burnout, trauma, self compassion, and shame resilience - all from a feminist counselling perspective. It's also a space I'm exploring and refining new ideas.