When I was eleven years old, I went to this Catholic weekend retreat for kids. I'm actually guessing I was eleven, because I remember playing the drums to "Zombie" by The Cranberries on stage, and I just looked up when that song was released. It was definitely a feeling of that time in middle school, when I was taking drum lessons and wearing baby tees with ridiculously huge jeans.
On the last day of the retreat, our parents came for the service. And I faked speaking in tongues. Well, now I know that, while it was happening, I did not know that. I was on stage, with my eyes closed, babbling nonsense at full commitment, as the priest held the microphone in front of my face, raving about how incredible I was. The Holy Spirit was speaking through me!
When I flash back to that moment, I just remember wondering what the big deal was. You want me to make a bunch of stupid sounds? I can make a bunch of stupid sounds. (God, I wish I could make the sounds for you right now, because I remember them, and boy are they good.) I made the stupid sounds, and wasn't expecting such a huge reaction. I remember keeping my eyes closed because I couldn't possibly face the huge audience in front of me, I just had to keep making these stupid sounds.
I was so relieved when it was over. And I swear--to this day--I had never seen my parents so proud of me. I sadly have no other memory of the both of them, together, smiling, and so happy. About me. Everyone was going up to them and gushing, in awe of their daughter.
To this day, this story makes me laugh so much to envision it. I just think back to little eleven-year-old me, just giving everyone what they wanted.
And I think of this story now, because I recently have shifted into this place where I no longer want to give everyone what they want. I have struggled for a long time with trying to be what I think people want me to be, wanting to be liked, wanting to fit in, feeling obligated to do things I don't want to, wanting to help everyone who needs my help, wanting to do the right thing. This especially started to happen after my several rock bottoms and subsequent recoveries; my whole mission became to help people, if I could just help everyone, the awful past that I was ashamed of would be worth it.
It's funny how you learn about being of service, but nobody talks much about the importance of boundaries. My biggest lesson in the past few years has been boundaries. Boundaries are hard, because most people who are unaware of healthy boundaries, will assume you are "selfish." How dare someone be selfish! How dare someone take care of themselves! You must suffer through life like the rest of us! (Why are we taught all the wrong things?)
Boundaries were really challenging for someone like me, it's hard to learn boundaries when you weren't raised with any. When we think of boundaries on a surface level, there are the obvious ones, like disengaging from harmful relationships or situations, but the truth is that boundaries are so much more than just the obvious. It's taking full responsibility for your energy and becoming fully aware and mindful of what you're doing with it and where you are putting it. It's saying no not only to the obvious and harmful, but saying no to even really kind people or really cool things. It's letting go of energetically assaulting people by dumping on them. It's shutting down someone who is dumping on you. It's stopping the habit of oversharing (this was me, truly a huge sign of so much unhealed trauma, LOL because it's still cringey and embarrassing). It's experiencing true intimacy by building actual relationships in a healthy way, and not giving that intimacy to people who haven't earned it. (When my therapist told me about "unearned intimacy" it blew my mind and I realized so many relationships that I thought were friendships were definitely not.) It’s respecting people’s time, respecting your own time. Staying out of other people’s business. Boundaries are even letting go of labeling yourself an "empath" and learning how to not take other people on--yep, that shit is just bad boundaries. You can literally focus on your own healing and learn how to manage that shit and use your sensitivity for only good.
And so much is the practice of boundaries with your self. It's not only setting the boundaries but following through. Because if you aren't respecting your own boundaries, why should others? It's choosing yourself first and doing what you need for yourself in order to be able to show up as your best self. It's listening to your body and no longer abandoning your own needs. Because another thing that's pretty messed up about boundaries is that you can't teach other people how to have them. You can only show others what your own boundaries are by sticking to them. (Trust me, I've learned this the hard way.)
For me, it was letting go of people-pleasing and then being okay with the consequences of that--disappointing people, what other people will think--just the worst things to think of as someone who was raised to be codependent. So nowadays, I am intentionally trying to be less available. Trying to give people less access. I am finally understanding now, as a 38-year-old, that I actually don't owe everyone anything. That I actually don't have to do anything that I don't want to do. I am a highly sensitive introvert. I recharge and replenish in solitude. I have to take care of myself or I become resentful and terrible. I'm doing this for all of us!!!!
It continues to be challenging, but what helps me follow through is to remember that I am simply being authentic. I am practicing integrity. I am doing what I need to do to be the most mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy, in order to... wait for it... BE OF SERVICE.
We only start with so much energy a day... what are you doing with yours? I'm not letting mine leak into anything I'm not completely in love with anymore. I will not be making stupid sounds to get you to like me. Sorry Mom and Dad.