I spent the day yesterday with a friend and I was blessed with some insightful revelations during our time together. One of the topics we touched on was the art of setting boundaries and energy exchange, and this has been somewhat a recurring theme for me over the last few weeks. I’ve been wondering where to actually start with this blog post, so here goes. Boundaries: we all have them, but are we truly enforcing them?
Empaths and Boundaries
Being empathic means that you’re very ‘plugged into’ or in tune with the emotions of others, and the end result is, more often than not, wanting to help, comfort, or please others, so that they’ll feel better. I’ve had so many instances where I felt guilty for not being able to help more, or to give more, or to be more to the various souls that cross my path, and subconsciously I suspect I was even beating myself up over it.
I believe that empaths give more, because we want to be surrounded by happy energy, and we want the world to be a better, happier, and brighter place. This in turn tends to blur the lines between giving within our boundaries and giving more.
‘Energy exchange’ has been one of those phrases that were hard for me to really put to work in my life and what it means, in it’s most basic form, is that we should give and receive in equal measure. In other words, we have to allow others to exchange their energy for ours. Energy takes various forms, there’s time, there’s affection, there’s service to others, there are physical objects or gifts, or even currency.
Allowing someone to participate fully in the energy exchange enriches their own lives, and I’ve been learning that by taking the opportunity away from someone to do so, through giving too much too freely, I’m doing them and myself a disservice. Both parties need to be active and take part in the exchange to benefit from it.
Understanding the Signs
Frustration is one of the biggest signs that someone needs to set boundaries and enforce them in order to be happier and to feel that sense of flow and balance in their own lives. I found myself burning out, feeling frustrated, unhappy, depressed, and angry and couldn’t quite figure out why, until it hit me: I wasn’t setting or enforcing proper boundaries.
This was not just true in the professional sense, but also in a personal capacity. The urge to please others and to ensure that they are happier, took a toll on me because that became my sole focus. This bled over into my work as well and the demands and expectations of others weighed more heavily on me because I not only felt their expectations but enforced it on myself as well (Talk about a double whammy!)
I found myself giving, and giving, and giving, and bending over backwards to please, but I was doing so from a place of frustration. I learned that I wasn’t giving because I wanted to, but because I felt I was being forced to. Giving from a place of joy brings more joy, because whatever you send out multiplies, and I was multiplying my own frustration and anger at feeling powerless.
One of the biggest signs of clues to understanding whether you’re sticking within your boundaries is to check how you feel. Are you doing or giving with joy, an open heart, and a happy attitude? Or are you feeling trapped, angry, frustrated, or violated? If the latter describes your state of being at the very time of giving, you shouldn’t give. Feeling negatively is just one way you’re letting yourself know that it’s time to start honoring your own needs and that there’s imbalance in the give/take of energy.
We all have boundaries tucked away in our ‘inner cupboards’ somewhere, hidden away where they hardly ever see the light of day. I found myself digging mine out and dusting them off to have a fresh look at how I would like to live my life and what I need in order to feel better about where I’m at and what I’m doing.
Setting a boundary can be as simple as just learning to say No. This is such a basic principle that it works in pretty much any area of life. Relationships, money, work, family, all you need to do is say No and give yourself permission to do so.
What I’m trying to share is that if you’re unhappy and finding yourself in that frustrated or depressed place, look at your boundaries and whether you’re truly honoring them. If not, make a few changes and see how it changes the way you feel. For me, this particular realization was a huge eye opener, because I believed that, on some level, I am meant to be giving the way I was. It brings to mind the saying “One cannot serve from an empty vessel”. If your own boundaries are honored, and your own vessel is full, there will be more than enough to serve not only yourself, but others as well.