In the beginning of 2022, I was coming into my 30th year, excited for the milestone I was about to cross and the adventures to come. But, what I didn’t expect was the lessons in boundaries this last year has taught me. I will spare you the extensive details but, I found myself, for the first time since I was 15, not working, unsure of what I wanted to do with my life and not showing up for myself the way I should. With this abundance of time I now had, I was forced to confront some hard truths in my life; the first - I had a boundary problem. I was consistently willing to show up for those around me at the expense of showing up for myself. I've always been the type of person others could depend on, willing to help with any problem. Now don’t get me wrong, showing up for your loved ones is important and something I still enjoy doing (acts of service is my love language and I’m an enneagram two after all), but I got to the point that saying yes to everyone else meant I was saying no to myself.
There were people in my life that saw how passionate I was about DEI and took that as a green light to come to me about all things race, any questions they had or how they are working to be better. While sometimes I’m in the headspace to talk about those things and enjoy that dialogue, there was ZERO regard for the mental load or the thought to ask if I was in the headspace to have that type of conversation from those individuals. Time and time again, in efforts to help educate, I was allowing other people to take from my cup that was getting emptier and emptier by the minute.
Two things stuck out to me initially when trying to process and analyze my boundary problem; first, black women setting boundaries in this society is not something that is acceptable. Black women are held to a high standard while at the same time not having access to safe spaces or even being allowed to set boundaries. Although I knew this as a fact, I was forced to confront the fact that I have allowed this social standard to play a role in my life for a very long time. Second, I believed that I HAD to be everything for everyone at all times to have some sense of worth. I felt that saying no meant that I was a bad friend, a bad coworker, or a bad daughter, when in reality this was the exact opposite.
I finally got to a place where I was sort of able to name the problem (growth is a lifelong journey). With the help of a lot self-reflection, journaling and therapy I have come to understand, more importantly accept that having boundaries is a form of self-care and essential in feeling safe and respected in any relationship. Setting boundaries allowed me to operate from a place of abundance rather than lack or scarcity. If my cup is full I can keep the promises I make to myself and my loved ones.
The hardest part for me was accepting that sometimes saying "no", or "not right now" does not negatively impact any of the identities I hold or my worth as a person but rather enables me to show up fully for those around me. Along my healing journey there have been two quotes that I refer back to often when I feel myself feeling guilty about setting boundaries:
"Lack of boundaries invites lack of respect." I show people how I allow them to treat me. If I don't respect me, who will?
"Safe spaces have boundaries. You are a safe space. So set your boundaries." - Bethanee Epifani J. Bryant
So, with that said, to my fellow black girl who feels stretched too thin and tired of saying yes, start saying no and give yourself all the time, effort and grace you show to others.