Hello! Grace here.
What do you do when you feel done but you also know you could push yourself and do more? How do you know where to draw the line and set the boundary? Many of us have beliefs about ourselves that tell us to push ourselves and always do more so how do we know when enough is enough?
These are questions my clients (and I personally) often struggle with. I am a highly competent and driven person. I also like to make people happy and be highly involved in things I participate in. While these traits are generally useful for me, the combination sometimes gets me into trouble. One of the things that I have had to learn over the years is that the line of when something is too much lies not to the extent to which I am capable but the extent to which something works for my whole/higher self.
There are so many situations in which I can and could do more than I choose to but doing so would get me into trouble with myself in other ways (let's just say that I was once interviewed for a book about quitting because of how hard it was for me to quite swimming even though it was causing me lasting physical damage...). I also hear this predicament expressed by my clients (who also tend to be highly driven over givers). As I get more clear about Right Action in my life, I also get more clear about where my boundaries need to be.
Just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. How do we know where to draw the line? We have to listen in and become aware of our own needs. Bet you knew I was going to say that by now, right?
Here is a little experiential exercise to practice in the moments when someone asks something of us or we feel pressure/expectation/or even desire to do something we know doesn’t work for us.
- Remember a time when you gave more than you had to give (maybe it was staying up late baking those cupcakes or running too many errands or doing a favor for someone when you were already running low on energy or whatever the case may be). See if you can remember what it felt like in your body. Or, tune into your body as you think about that time and notice what you are feeling now. For me I feel a knot in my chest and my shoulders are tense. You may experience it any number of ways.
- Next, remember a time when you did only within the limits of what you had to give (either because nothing more was asked or because you said no, however it came about). How did that feel in your body at the time? How do you feel in your body thinking about it now? For me I feel more relaxed and empowered, as if there is more space to breathe and I am more connected to the earth, less guarded, more open.
- Now, think about what is being asked of you now/what you are thinking about doing and notice how you feel in your body. Do you feel similar to the first way or the second? If it is clearly one or the other than you have your answer about whether it is giving or over giving (notice I didn’t say whether you should or shouldn’t do it since that is still your choice).
- Sometimes the information that comes back is a little conflicted. Maybe you feel pretty clearly that doing it creates tension in your body but the idea of not doing it also creates tension. The next step is to get curious about what parts of you are reacting. Does it feel like too much but the part of you that is afraid of letting other people down is making a stink? Remember that all feelings are valid and Right Action does not always feel free and clear of discomfort. Getting clear about what parts/beliefs are creating the discomfort will help you know where you actually want to put your boundary. The people pleaser in you may need you to say, “thank you, I see your concern that if I set this boundary I may be disappointing someone. And this is the best place for my boundary to be so I will deal with the person’s disappointment if I need to. This is what I need to do to take care of myself.”
A belief that I see trip people up all the time is the belief that they have to do everything to be worthy. It comes in all shapes and sizes and nuanced verbiage but the heart of it is the same. When we allow ourselves the grace to allow other people their feelings and to make the decision that is right for ourselves, beautiful things happen. Yes, sometimes it is still painful, but it is worth it!
Knowing where to place the line can be challenging. Sometimes we decide to give more than we have because it works better for us in other regards. When we do so consciously it feels different than when we do so blindly.
You deserve to take impeccable care of yourself (even if you don’t currently believe that about yourself). To that end, I would encourage you to check in with yourself before making a decision to become more and more aware of where you want to draw the line. Give yourself the permission to have your line be at the end of what works for you, not the end of what you are capable of.