Depression can be caused by a lot of things – generally, though, it’s some sort of loss. Loss of a job. Loss of a loved one. Loss of a relationship.
And sometimes it’s simply the loss of ourselves.
Many of us, especially women, have a tough time maintaining boundaries. Boundaries are what define us… what separate us from others. They help us feel safe. Heard. Respected.
How good are you at maintaining boundaries? See how many of the following apply to you:
- I often agree to do things I don’t really want to do.
- I have trouble asserting myself.
- I find myself feeling disrespected at work or in my personal relationships.
- When I do speak up for myself, others accuse me of being “too sensitive”… and I believe them and try to correct my behavior.
- I often feel that I take care of others more than I take care of myself.
- I have a hard time saying no.
- I feel guilty when I say no.
- I tend to behave the way people expect me to.
- When people get angry with me, I try to “make it right” or “fix it”.
Women are raised to be nurturers. The trouble is, so many of us grow up in households in which the nurturers are so busy taking care of everyone else, they rarely take care of themselves. They sacrifice. They become martyrs. They need to be needed. They are co-dependent (they need someone to NEED them). When this is modeled for us, we understandably come to believe that that is how we are “supposed” to behave as adults.
The trouble is, our identity – our sense of self – gets lost along the way. When we are always putting others first, we start to feel less important than they are. We rescue others at the expense of ourselves. And inevitably – whether we are comfortable admitting it to ourselves or not – we get ANGRY. The trouble is, expressing anger tends to make others mad… and then we feel guilty or afraid of their anger and feel the need to “fix” it. So we stuff it.
Eventually, that anger and resentment turns inward and becomes depression.
We are angry because we don’t feel respected. We don’t feel heard. We don’t feel like a separate person. We don’t feel we have an identity. We don’t feel we can say no. We feel criticized for being “too sensitive”. We are angry with others and we are angry with ourselves. But it isn’t “nice” to be angry, right?
WOULD YOU RATHER BE “NICE”? OR WOULD YOU RATHER BE GENUINELY KIND TO YOURSELF… AND OTHERS?
Anger, when it is constructive rather than violent or used to hurt, can be one of the most powerful tools in our Emotional Health toolbox. It is not KIND to allow ourselves to disappear in the fog of other people’s wants, needs, desires and dysfunctions. Likewise, it is not KIND to others to allow them to continue to exercise their own unhealthy childhood scripts at our expense.
It is all right to feel angry when someone demands that you do something you’re not comfortable with. It’s perfectly acceptable to be irritated and even avoid someone in the future when they get “mad” at you because you told them no. There is nothing wrong with feeling angry because people don’t respect your boundaries.
But how do you identify your boundaries in the first place?
If it doesn’t come naturally to you, it takes some practice. But here’s a surefire litmus test to get you started…
Let’s say someone asks you to do something. IF YOU DO IT, WILL YOU FEEL PUT OUT OR RESENT THEM LATER? If so, you’ve got a boundary there. Maintain it. You can say “No, I can’t do that tomorrow,” or “That doesn’t work for me.” If it’s something you can do later without feeling resentful, say, “Maybe next week. Let me get back to you.”
You do NOT have to say, “I’m sorry.” You do NOT have to give an explanation WHY it doesn’t work for you. Both of those things come from Guilt-Because-I-Said-No, so don’t say them.
People who are used to walking all over you may be taken aback. They may even be angry or try to guilt-trip you into changing your mind. Be prepared to deal with both and don’t try to change their anger. It’s their problem… not yours. They may try to manipulate you into changing your mind by saying, “Awww, come on…” or “I did this for you last week…” REITERATE YOUR EARLIER RESPONSE AND SAY NOTHING MORE. If they’re angry and say, “I can’t believe you’d do this to me!” and EXCELLENT response is, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Give responsibility for their emotions back to them. They don’t belong to them, and the only control you can ever have over their emotions is to give control of YOU over to them. Don’t do it.
I hope you find something useful in today’s post. Your comments are welcome.
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