Setting up boundaries

alice - Vidauban, France
Entered on July 31, 2008

Setting up boundaries

I believe it is vital to set up boundaries within our everyday life; invisible lines around us to create our own space, to protect us. If we don’t do this our energy can get sapped by negative influences.

An experience at work taught me that it is our responsibility to take control of our own lives.

I had a weak flaw in my character I needed to help those around me. I wanted to feel needed so when a new colleague started work, I went out of my way to make her feel welcome. She was alone; we were both foreigners in a new country so I set out to look after her. I made sure she knew where to do her shopping, that she was comfortable in her apartment, took her out at weekends, even cooked for her. It was a pleasure and yes, I did enjoy her company.

Then our friendship took another turn: She started telephoning me after work when she would criticize our work colleagues, the work place itself and anything else she could think of.

At first I listened politely but I could see she expected me to join in these sessions. She would quite happily talk for an hour or so, without saying anything decent about anything or anybody.

Then she started borrowing money. Again, wanting to help I would comply. My own financial situation was not great but I did not know how to refuse.

The situation finally got out of hand. The calls were getting longer in the evenings, my free time was not my own, she was not repaying the money she borrowed and I could see my work colleagues were avoiding me.

My boss noticing I wasn’t my usual self called me into her office after work one day. I confided in her.

“It would probably be best to separate you two. But you will have to learn to say no.”

Good advice but not easy to follow.

I was relieved to see my friend was transferred to another branch for six months. This time allowed me to take stock of the situation. I sought help.

My counsellor taught me how to draw that line that separates my space from others.

I know it’s important to share time, resources and energy with our fellow travellers. But only to a point. People have to work things out for themselves. It is not my business to continually give advice and to lend money.

This philosophy has governed my emotional and mental life ever since. It has allowed me to grow spiritually and to be successful in the work place. I believe it is better to set up your boundaries instead of hurting yourself and those around you.