I have found that over the last several years I have become very bad at setting boundaries.
I think I never learned to set them properly, because I was living in a safe environment where the boundaries were already in place. I didn't have to worry about being used, or using others, because the home where I grew up and was raised in was already set up in a reciprocal, symbiotic balance. My family had learned to be inter-dependent, not co-dependent.
While knowing what this was, I wasn't aware of how my parents had made it work, and so over the last few years I've been attempting to learn how to balance my own life as an adult, and have stumbled exceptionally.
I came across a training about setting boundaries, and it broke up my recent situation better than any self analysis I had run: I am a 'Rescuer.'
I see it as my right and duty to be there for others. I am the sort of person that runs around giving 100% of myself to people, even when they only give 10% back. I am afraid of saying “No” to people, because I hate to disappoint them, and I hate to appear selfish. I don't ask for help, because I don't like to seem weak or self-centered.
I like to feel needed; it makes me feel like part of a group. I don't often recognize my own needs until it's too late, and “know better” than to put my needs first, even when I should. And I tend to be vague about what is expected in my relationships.
Because of my personality, I tend to attract 'Victims'; people who are under-responsible. People who are passive, and don't know what they want, what they are about.
Victims live in a 'blame mode' and feel entitled. They look to others to do things for them, and take very little, if any, personal responsibility. They expect to be rescued, and continually have reasons not to be there when it's there turn to be accountable.
These people make it easy for me to be a Rescuer; they give me an automatic pass to take over and “try to make things better.” In reality, all I'm doing is making us both weak.
Because I give 100% of myself to everything, I get burnt out fast. I get fed up, angry, and eventually throw my hands up in the air and walk away- at least until I feel guilty. The guilt, of course, leads me to being a rescuer again, and the vicious cycle continues.
So, this long diatribe has led me to both some new and re-used conclusions:
~ I need to say “No!” It is not my job to solve the world's problems. I have a few that are assigned to me, but otherwise it's out of my hands, and I should leave it that way.
~ Saying 'no' to someone is not mean. It isn't selfish to know my boundaries. It isn't petty and stupid or childish. Sometimes, I need to NOT do things for people. Sometimes, I need to let them do for themselves.
~ And sometimes, I need to let them do things for me. A relationship is only balanced and healthy when it is reciprocal. This doesn't mean counting favors. This means an equal sharing of the load. This means that we care for Each Other; not just in words, not just in actions, but in design.