Bath bombs! Chocolate! Wine! Going out! Staying in! Netflix! Treat yo’ self.
Self-care. It’s a thing. Don’t believe me? Search up the hashtag #selfcare on Instagram, and you’ll see a whole range of suggestions on how to salve your stressed-out soul, from cookies to bath salts to sweatpants to weed. Self-care, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder. And with a few exceptions, you’ll see it depicted as something you do after the fact: treatment, as opposed to prevention.
There is definitely a place for a night in and a long bath. I personally love a night in (I get bored in the bath). But I’d argue that the most effective technique for your own self-care is setting good boundaries.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. We want to avoid conflict. We don’t want to disappoint others. We compare our insides to other people’s outsides, and want to appear as though we can handle it all. Or, we grew up in homes in which we learned that our job was to “be good,” please everyone, anticipate the needs of others, never make waves, never take up space, absorb the negative emotions of others and reflect back only a smile.
So to avoid conflict, we go along to get along. Except, not really. We accept treatment that we really shouldn’t, because we don’t feel that we have the right to set boundaries. We make decisions that aren’t aligned with our best interest in order to avoid “drama.” Or, we expect people to be mind-readers, feeling hurt when someone crosses a line we never actually drew. “I shouldn’t have to tell them!” we protest. “They just should have known!”
The bottom line: we fear abandonment. And sometimes, it happens. But in not drawing boundaries, we abandon ourselves. And that takes a toll after a while. We feel resentment start to build up. Our relationships break down. We begin to distrust. We feel used, disconnected, helpless.
Really, rather than threatening relationships, boundaries help preserve them. So what are some good boundaries? Only you can say for sure what you are and are not willing to accept in a relationship or exchange of energy, whether that relationship is personal or professional, familial or with a stranger. Some basic boundaries include who is or is not allowed to physically touch you and when; how you and your partner speak to each other in a conflict; whether your kids are allowed to have company when you’re not home; or how much work you’re willing to take home on a weekend. But if you’re feeling hurt, angry, or resentful about being treated a certain way, that’s a pretty good sign that you could use a boundary there.
If you’re looking for a road map for how to create good boundaries, you could do worse than looking to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The first two of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, the yamas and the niyamas, set forth guidelines for moral and ethical treatment of others and of oneself. We’ll be talking about those on the blog, too.
Let me leave you with this. It can be really scary to set a boundary, especially when you fear the reaction or feel as though your job is to make others comfortable, whatever the cost to yourself. I’m telling you, that is not the case. If you’re feeling a lot of resentment in a relationship, or feeling like you have to eat more than your share of dirt, know that this is a MAJOR sign that it’s time to make a change and decide how you want to be treated.