Boundaries and expectations: A reflection
Updated: Sep 9, 2022
Hello fellow earthlings!
Welcome to another Neighborhood blog post. When I sat down to write this I realized that as the colder months are upon us, I have been spending much more time inside and in stillness. This in turn has led to a lot of time to think and reflect. I thought I could write some of these reflections down and they may prompt someone like you to do some thinking and reflecting of your own or at the very least, maybe they could make you feel heard/seen if these are things you have pondered before. Now, don’t get me wrong; I do not think that I am any sort of authority or wise enough to be seen as one. I am simply writing from my experience and views to hopefully encourage you to do the same.
If any of this sounds remotely interesting to you and you are going to come on this journey with me then please; go make yourself a cup of tea, find a cozy spot and settle in for a selfish few minutes of self-indulgence and reflection. If you are feeling overwhelmed right now and don’t have the capacity to think beyond your current situation, it’s okay. Take everything one step at a time and look after yourself first.
For those of you who are still here, I hope you’re sipping your favorite drink and feeling warm. There are two things I have been particularly grappling with lately and these are expectations and boundaries (big topics, I know). So I thought I would simply discuss my thoughts around those two for today. Now, be warned dear reader, what you are about to read is a true brain dump. I am simply writing things as I think of them in an attempt to make sense of it all. In a way, we will be going on this journey together.
I don’t know about you, but I grew up always hearing the phrase ‘treat others like you’d like to be treated’. Makes sense right? You’re nice to people, they have no reason not to be nice back to you. That seemingly simple phrase and concept caused me to unconsciously build up a level of expectation. I thought that it was fair to expect that if you are nice to people, they would be nice back. Here is where that has become extremely problematic for me. I am that person who will go above and beyond for absolutely everyone in my life. I am that friend who drops everything at the drop of a hat to help whoever needs it. I have a tendency to put others before myself to an extreme. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand this is sounding like I am trying to make myself out to be some sort of saint. That is not at all where I am going with this, stay with me.
This willingness to put others before myself has subconsciously stemmed from the belief that everyone would do the same for me. I am not saying that I only do nice things for people because I expect them to give me something in return. But I would be lying if I said that it doesn’t give me some sort of comfort to think that I could hopefully call on someone because I have previously been that person’s shoulder to cry on. The problem with this expectation of people, is that upon reflection I have realised that I was starting to resent people. I started resenting the fact that my friends wouldn’t drop everything for me. That when I needed someone, the people I tried to reach out to weren't responding in the way I expected them to. The worst part is that I wholeheartedly believed that I was in the right. Why shouldn’t they be there for me? I’ve done it for them. This is the problem with expectations, you have to be open to disappointment to some extent. However, it is also very unfair to expect people to react in a certain way simply because that is the way you would react. It is important to remember that everyone shows love in very different ways. Every single person you meet will have a completely different set of values and forms of expression. When someone is giving you love and care, even if it's not in the way you expected, it is important to do our best to acknowledge and receive it.
I have come to realize that, at least for me, expectations and boundaries are heavily intertwined. See, I have been going above and beyond for everyone around me. So much so that it almost became an expectation of myself and to some extent, I believe the people around me have come to expect it too. This is where boundaries come in. I have been dissecting the idea of boundaries, what it means to have them and how to implement them for a few months now. I still don’t have any concrete answers, so if you were hoping that’s where this is going then I am truly sorry to disappoint you. However, I have noticed a few things that I believe to be important and if boundaries are something you are trying to untangle yourself then maybe you will find some of these thoughts helpful.
Due to my high expectations of myself and my intense desire to make everyone around me happy and feel loved/seen/heard, I completely disregarded myself. I abandoned my needs and wants because it felt so much more important and noble to care about other people. Here is something I have quickly realized though, ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’ (bet you’ve all heard that one before too!). I have been trying to give everything I have to others but the funny thing is, if you don’t give back to yourself and replenish yourself, then pretty soon you have nothing left to give. I got to that point. Feeling completely mentally and emotionally drained, still trying to give more to others because I had these expectations to fulfill. Pretty quickly I understood that I could not keep doing that and I needed to establish some boundaries, not only with myself but other people too. There are three main boundaries I’ve been trying to establish in my life:
Interaction should be a two way street. Putting in effort should not be just one person's job. There should always be give and take.
Don’t run yourself down trying to give to someone who is not giving anything to you, just because you hope that they will appreciate it anyway
Don’t make excuses for people. If someone is not treating you how you deserve or just outright treating you badly, there is no excuse.
They may sound simple written down like that but if you are a relentless giver like me, it’s not so simple. The thing is, if you yourself are not happy, you can’t magically make others happy. It is true what they say; if you don’t love yourself first, then you cannot expect anyone else to. If you are feeling like you are giving too much and have little or nothing for yourself, I would advise you to take a step back. Sit down with yourself and these thoughts and start to ask yourself the hard questions; are the people in your life really the sort of people you want/need around you? Are you giving too much to the wrong people/situations? Could your energy be better used somewhere else? Or even better, could you simply give more of that love to yourself?
Being overly willing to give and receive love is a very beautiful thing and I would hate for any of you reading this to walk away thinking that you need to stop giving love. It is a balancing act between giving but also being selfish when needed. As I said at the beginning, I am by no means an expert in any of this and am very much trying to figure this all out myself too. I just figured that writing it all down could be a good way to sort through it a bit more and hopefully sharing it here could inspire some of you to start pondering on these issues too.
If you’ve made it here, thank you. I truly hope there has been some value in this moment of reflection. If I can leave you with anything it is this; you are allowed to have expectations, just make sure they are realistic. Giving love to others is a magical thing but giving love to yourself is restorative and powerful. Go forth, set boundaries and expectations with your best interest at heart! And remember, you are your longest commitment, so be kind and loving to yourself first.
Mariana is one of our epic events coordinators here on the NBHD team.
She is based in Pōneke and loves writing as a hobby and creative outlet!
Keep up with our NBHD blog to catch more of her work in the future.