In today’s world, it can be easy to access whatever you want, whenever you want. We have mobile devices that can access the knowledge of the world in a few clicks. We can reach whoever we want, no matter where they are, as long as there is internet or data. We can buy things online, and have them delivered on the same day, or close to it. We can watch countless movies and television shows with all of the streaming platforms out there.
Long story short, we have access to anything and everything, almost immediately. This easy access to knowledge, entertainment, and people is very convenient! However, this onslaught of stimulation has made us realize the importance of setting boundaries to prevent burnout.
Setting boundaries is very intentionally done, and the purpose of them is not to restrict access, but to protect yourself from how much access people have to you and what you can give - whether it is time, energy, or something else. Setting boundaries helps ensure that you are taking care of yourself before taking care of others.
Why all this talk about boundaries? One thing I’ve noticed about myself and other folks with disabilities, is that we tend to not set boundaries, or are more willing to let them dissipate. Based on my own personal experience, and also discussions with others, I think the main reason boundaries tend to be optional rather than necessary is because we overcompensate for our disability.
The thought pattern might go along the lines of: “I have this X disability, so it’s okay if I just let X happen.”
Whether it was friendships, or romantic relationships, I used to go the extra mile to make sure I was well liked. At times, I felt like I had something I needed to prove. I had to prove that I was still a great friend or partner, even if I have a tendency to mishear things. I made sure to always be available when someone needed to talk. I made sure that any plans made were plans that the other person wanted, even if I didn’t care for them myself. I made sure that whatever I did or said was to benefit the other person.
Unsurprisingly, as time went on, I became exhausted. At first, I wasn’t sure why I was feeling as tired as I was. It finally clicked when I was listening to a podcast episode titled The Beauty in Setting Boundaries by Wildfire & Flowers. It was because I wasn’t doing anything for me, and that I was allowing myself to be completely open to others in a way that was unhealthy.
In this episode, the two lovely podcast hosts, Vanessa and Paula, spoke about how setting healthy boundaries is a way of advocating for yourself and protecting your person and peace.
This episode taught me to reflect a bit deeper on what boundaries I had set...and I realized I had none! I was burnt out and exhausted all the time because I had no boundaries set when it came to any relationships I had in my life. A part of me felt like I had to overcompensate for the fact that I have a disability. My reasoning was that by being extra present and extra available - I was trying to prove that my disability is not something that needs to be worried about.
For example, before going into my first relationship, I had a set of values in mind for what I wanted out of a partnership. I told myself that these values were non negotiable. As this relationship progressed, those values diminished. I was willing to let things slide with my past partner - things that crossed my own boundaries, because I felt like my hearing loss was also a thing that my partner had to let slide as well.
Knowing that I used to think that leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. What happened with my past partner is a more extreme case of my not setting boundaries, but moments similar to that popped up in my friendships, my relationships and even with people I just met!
Imagine to my non-surprise that after speaking with other folks with disabilities, that they all shared similar experiences of letting things slide because they felt like they had to overcompensate because of their disability. This can apply to you, disability or not! If you let your own boundaries break time and time again, you will get burnt out. From there, it’s a slippery slope to thinking that feeling that way is normal.
Boundaries are important. They’re not meant to restrict you, but to free you. Since then, I’ve intentionally set my own boundaries. I’ve learned that the boundaries I do set now are not set in stone! As long as I’m aware of them, I can experiment to see what works best for me in whatever situation that I find myself in.
Some examples of boundaries that I have now are:
- If I had a long day at work in front of screens, the boundary I set for myself is to stay away from phones and computers, and instead go outside for a walk or read a book. This might mean that I might let texts go unresponded for several hours, or even until the next day!
- If I’ve had a long stretch of being around a lot of noise and a full day of heavy listening, I make sure to have an hour or two with my cochlear off to recharge in silence!
Establishing those physical and emotional boundaries is key to protecting your energy and time. It’s important to establish trust and connection with yourself before letting others into that space!
What are some ways that you can set a boundary to honor your inner peace today?