Finding Your Limits

Recently, a friend reached out and asked if we could meet up for coffee. I found an opening on my calendar and we agreed on a time and place. However, the night before, I found myself dreading the coffee date. I couldn’t put my finger on the cause. I was not in conflict with my friend, and I wasn’t anticipating any difficult conversations. As I reflected, I realized I was exhausted. I had just come back from a busy weekend trip, and I had worked to see as many clients as I could upon returning. My heart and mind were longing for a bit of space to rest. So I texted my friend and cancelled. I stayed home, read a book, took a walk, and had an extra cup of coffee before work. During my commute, I felt refreshed, as if an emotional weight had been lifted from me.
This has been a huge area of growth in my life. For years, I have consistently been motivated by the fear of letting others down or not being a good enough_____ for them (friend, sister, daughter, coworker, wife, etc.). As a result, I pushed myself past my own capacities to be whatever I thought I “should” be. And it sucked the life out of me! Rather than enjoying my time with others, I felt fake and inauthentic, forcing energy and engagement that I didn’t truly feel. Rather than enjoying using my talents and time to complete a task I had volunteered for or been assigned to, I often had an anxious and bitter attitude. Or, when I had pushed myself to complete something in order to please someone else, I felt angry that they hadn’t fully appreciated my efforts. And ironically, despite my belief that I was shoring up my various relationships and roles, I found that they were negatively impacted by my lack of boundaries.
I began to learn that my emotional state was not only greatly impacted by my capacities, but often served as a signal that my boundaries were not being respected. Rather than ignoring these signals my emotions were giving, I began tuning in. Irritation often means I feel taken advantage of or unheard. Anxiety may indicate feelings of insecurity in a relationship or feeling out of control of my circumstances. Sadness might mean I am exhausted or feeling disconnected from myself or others. The more that I respected the validity of my emotions, the more freedom I felt to act in ways that helped to alleviate them.
While there are certainly times to push ourselves, it shouldn’t be our constant MO. Each individual must find a balance between working hard to maximize his or her time while still making space to simply be present with our own limited capacities. This balance may look different at various times of our lives, depending on our individual contexts or seasons of life. Do you struggle with setting boundaries for yourself? Do you feel lingering irritation or anxiety due to the demands placed on you by others’ or your own expectations? Do you feel guilt for your very human limitations? When is the last time you said “no” to something?

Try to pay attention to your feelings, and consider them as helpful indicators rather than annoyances. If this is an area that is difficult for you, please reach out and set up a time to talk to one of our Mansio therapists. We would love to help you take the time and space to discern what your emotions are trying to tell you about your own limits and find ways to thrive in your unique context.

By Kelsey Abiera, MA LMFT