When something happens the first time, you think its a fluke or somehow situational. But when it happens again and again, you start to realize a pattern. You realize it is not just the situation, it is not just the other person, but that you are in fact somehow responsible for the current state of affairs.
For me, the realization is this – I do not know how to set boundaries. My earliest experience goes back to when I was a teenager, wanting to be there for someone very close to me. Staying, trying to help and console while every part of me felt compromised and torn. The second experience was a hierarchical working relationship in which I let myself be put down again and again, without ever stopping to question whether it was the truth. The third experience with a former landlord, was one of the most manipulative, soul-sucking interactions I’ve had with anyone and something I’m still trying to wrap my head around. I could go on, but you get the idea. Though they all differed significantly, the common factor is this – the emotional exhaustion I felt afterwards. After these interactions, I have no energy for anyone but myself. I retreat and want nothing else but to be alone. I use that time to recharge and regain the balance I so value and need.
Obviously, this pattern is not ideal. Yet, our biggest strengths can also be our biggest weaknesses. After countless discussions with my significant other and loved ones who see me clearly (and aren’t afraid to tell me), I decided my goal for 2014 was to knock this pattern on its head. The goal simply was to “check in”. To ask myself – Is this in my best interest? Or am I doing it out of obligation, guilt or the expectations other people have of me?
You won’t believe how many times I answered the last three. But I believe that I (we) are the keeper of our own happiness. No one can “make” you happy but yourself. The good news is I know what my boundaries are. I can feel them when they are crossed. I’ve set boundaries in the last few years and they’ve improved the relationships I have. But what I still struggle with – what I will probably always struggle with – is feeling guilty, conflicted and selfish as I set such boundaries.
Perhaps this is because boundaries are such fluid, organic things – they require a hardness to the way I interact with people that I find extremely difficult to do. I perceive it synonymous to shutting off the compassion, caring and openness I like to give people (though intellectually, I know this perception holds no truth).
So it all comes down to this. Our strengths are also our weaknesses. They will be lifelong lessons in which we will benefit from, struggle with and continually grow from. And isn’t that what it’s all about?