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We Need to Stop Romanticizing Our Lack of Boundaries

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I’m a “yes” person. What I mean by that is, I like saying yes to people. I like falling under our society’s praise for compassionate people with big hearts. This has so often led me to burnout. Unchecked generosity with time, material wealth or emotions can lead to frustration and strain in relationships.

Striving to be a compassionate and generous person is a really good thing. However, our society has embraced the idea of having a big heart, putting it on a pedestal without thinking through the possible repercussions. Sometimes, people may use having a “big heart” as an excuse to ignore boundaries for themselves and for others. And they may not even realize they’re doing it.

Being busy and burned out is worn like a medal of honor. Giving constantly is praised even when it isn’t wise, safe or healthy.

Our culture romanticizes and cheers on the “yes” people with big hearts and villainizes the “no” people, branding them as selfish.

But is it really healthy to polarize things so harshly?

Personally, I don’t think so. I think that big-hearted people can have healthy boundaries. I also think that people with healthy boundaries can be big-hearted. It’s critical that we start to change the societal narrative about boundaries.

What Boundaries Are

Boundaries within relationships are incredibly important. Boundaries lay the groundwork for protecting our emotional and physical energy.

Boundaries also empower us to enjoy relationships more fully. When we accept our limitations, we can confidently help others without the fear of burning out.

Boundaries are necessary to our well-being, but they are critically important for people with generous hearts. Saying “yes” to everything and everyone is tempting, but it’s also unhealthy, exhausting and potentially detrimental to relationships and mental health.

Accepting limits is not a defeat. Learning how to allocate our energy, time and resources is a freeing, empowering thing.

What Boundaries Aren’t

Contrary to popular belief, boundaries are not selfish. In my experience with setting and keeping personal boundaries, I have been able to help people so much better than before.

Boundaries may seem restricting, but they truly aren’t. They allow you to give of yourself relationally with confidence, knowing you have safeguards to protect your well-being.

Boundaries and a Big Heart 

As much as we would love to be limitless, we are not.

We cannot do everything we would like. We cannot be everything to everyone. We cannot help everyone with everything. Boundaries help us make the most of our limitations so we can take care of ourselves and help others with fearless confidence and compassion.

I hope someday our society can see the value in boundaries, just like we see the value in being a compassionate, big-hearted, generous person. These are not mutually exclusive things. Both are good and both are possible.

Changing the narrative around boundaries starts with each one of us. The world needs more big-hearted people with healthy boundaries.

Photo by John Mark Arnold on Unsplash

Originally published: November 25, 2020
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