Let me paint a picture for you: It's 6:30 pm, it's been a looong workday, and you are hurriedly trying to wrap up emails so that you can catch that restorative yoga class that your entire mind, body, and soul has been CRAVING. Suddenly, you hear the dreaded “ding” of a new email in your inbox. It's from… that coworker. The one who is technically your “superior” but not your direct manager. The one who appears to have zero empathy for trivial little things like “after-work plans” or (dare we say it) - a full-on social life. Subject line: URGENT!! Body of email: Minion (or something along those lines) - the client just made a last-minute ask and I need you to jump on a call with them in 15 minutes. I already put it on your calendar. Send me notes from the call after you're done and then we can jump on a call later tonight to discuss next steps. Can I get an UGHHHHH if you've been here before?? This, my friend, is what we can a self-abandonment situation. Your “Superior” (oops, is my disdain for corporate hierarchies showing? ) has essentially told you “Hey, whatever you had going on tonight - it's not as important as pleasing the client. You are expected to abandon your own needs so that you can meet theirs.” Your subconscious is likely saying “If I don't abandon my needs to meet the needs of my Superior and this client, they will be mad at me and they will tell my boss and I will get fired and I will go broke and I will be homeless within two months and then I will die from hypothermia. So I better cancel the stupid yoga class and DO WHAT I NEED TO DO IN ORDER TO SURVIVE, DAMMIT!" Does it feel like I'm being dramatic? Maybe. But most likely not. Our subconscious programming around people-pleasing is REAL, and when we combine elements that are essential to our survival (like earning money) it can be easy to jump to worst-case scenarios and to feel like our very existence is being threatened. So what's the solution here - do we “suck it up” and abandon the yoga plan? Do we have a Jerry Maguire-level freak-out, tell the Superior to shove it up their , and move to Bali to become a certified yoga instructor? Or is there… a middle way? Let's talk about the B-word: Boundaries. Healthy boundaries are not overly rigid (as in “No, absolutely not, never, don't even ask me because it's a conversation I am not even willing to entertain”) nor are they overly porous (as in “No, I won't do that, except for the 75% of the time that I cave in and say yes.”) We are all (especially those of us who identify as “people-pleasers”) constantly striving to find that middle ground, that healthy boundary that communicates clearly what is okay and what is not okay. What would a healthy boundary look like in the scenario above? Here's an example: Subject line: Re: URGENT!! Body of email: Hi “Superior" - thanks for your message. Unfortunately I have plans this evening that I can't shift. I would be happy to regroup in the morning as I understand that this is time sensitive. I have availability between meetings at 10:30 am tomorrow and will put some time on our calendars to discuss. In the meantime, if this is an absolute emergency, I can be reached via email between 8:30-9 pm this evening. I appreciate your understanding and look forward to supporting you with this! Best, Bad-ass boundary-setter There - how did that feel? Too scary? It's totally normal to feel that way. And all the more reason to practice setting healthy boundaries with the people in your life who feel safe before you take on the “Superiors” in your world. I'm talking about those friends or family members who don't give you a guilt trip when you say “I'm actually too tired to meet up tonight” or “I need to prioritize my workout this morning.” Don't have any people like that in your life? Also totally normal to feel that way. Here's a hunch though - you may feel like there is no one in your life who is safe to set boundaries with because you have never tried to set healthy boundaries with them. If this is all resonating with you, here's your homework: the next time you are about to self-abandon and to prioritize someone else's needs above your own, try to pause, hold on to yourself, and walk that middle line by setting a healthy (non-rigid, non-porous) boundary. If you need help with this, I recommend Nedra Glover Tawwab's book Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself. There are literally boundary-setting scripts in this book that you can copy and paste into your own life. After you have communicated your healthy boundary, sit quietly with the fear and discomfort that will bubble up (and oh, the bubbles will come). Take deep breaths. Close your eyes if that feels safe. Now, picture your inner child - the young version of you that is so innocent and somewhere along the way learned that they must abandon their own needs in order to be loved or to feel safe or worthy. Tell that inner child over and over that YOU are the one who will protect them. YOU are the one who will prioritize their needs above all others. YOU are the one who is there to show them unconditional love. And that YOU will ruthlessly “Mama bear” or “Papa bear” that inner child until they can trust that self-abandonment doesn't serve them anymore. Then, together, you will finally feel free enough to let that behavior go. My greatest wish for you is freedom from self-abandonment and a deep knowing of your inherent worth. If I can help you get there in any way, you know where to find me. Much love - and comment below if you said “no” to someone today!
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