Setting boundaries

I like helping others.  When I am asked for help and agree to help someone, I intend to follow through on my commitment.  I am not a person who offers help only to make an excuse when I can’t keep a promise.  If I can’t take on a project or am unavailable to help, I will kindly say so.  Sometimes my inability to provide help is not taken well.

I had been volunteering at the animal shelter since 2001.  After Richard died in 2005, I continued working at the shelter while I worked full time at the bank and began volunteering my time at my church.  All went well for a while but then it seemed that I was expected to attend meetings or activities at church every night of the week.  By mid-2008, I was becoming exhausted by my activities and thought I was clear about my desire to limit my activities at church so I could have more time for myself.  No one was listening to me when I said I needed some time to myself.  I attended a church council meeting during the Fall and was horrified when I was elected for an important position in the church.  I felt anger as the votes came in and I was elected as the financial secretary in addition to my other responsibilities.  I sat down at my computer later that evening and composed two letters – one of them a letter of resignation from all church activities and the other letter of resignation from my activities at the animal shelter.  I received an email message the next day from someone at my church demanding that I “explain myself.”  I know that person reads my blog so I hope I have sufficiently “explained myself”  in this post.

During the latter part of 2008, I was working full-time, going to college at night and beginning my relationship with Stephen.  A friend called to ask me if I would help him create an eBay business.  He had no background in running an on-line business and the process would have been too time-consuming for me to take on at the time.  I thought he would understand when I told him that I couldn’t take on the project.  He didn’t understand and apparently resented my decision not to assist him in this project.  While at dinner with a group of friends over the holidays, one of G.’s friends mentioned across the table (and loud enough for everyone to hear him) that I should have made the time to help G. with the eBay business.  Then I felt bad because G. complained about it to his friend.  The result would have been the same if I had promised to help and then broke my promise when I didn’t have the time to help him.

It is impossible and impractical to expect someone to always be available and willing to agree to do every favor or task that is needed.  My ability to set boundaries for myself means that someone is going to be unhappy when I am unable to help when needed.

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2 Responses to Setting boundaries

  1. chmjr2 says:

    Saying no is something we all must learn to do. We all have a large demand on our time and our management of it can increase our quality of life. That said I hope that you did not have to step away from activities that you enjoyed because they kept adding more demands on your time. When I volunteer I always let them know what my time limit is and when they try (and they will) to increase my time I just give them a firm no. Also I very seldom explain my reason for not doing what ever extra they wanted. I find to explain opens up the path for them to argue, reason, plead, or guilt trip you into saying yes.

    • Natasha says:

      I did enjoy the activities but couldn’t get anyone to understand that I was getting exhausted. This caused resentment for me and I had to walk away. I was happy that I did not get the guilt-trip from the shelter but I really needed time for myself. Sometimes people won’t listen when we attempt to set boundaries. I am getting better at saying “no.”

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