Self-care and socialising... boundaries!

So we have spoken about identifying needs right? And often those needs stem from feelings of loneliness or boredom. In these cases, when we notice feelings like loneliness, socialising might be the solution. Spending time with friends and family often makes us feel happier, more relaxed, loved and entertained. In a world of social media and instant connection with others, it is interesting how we are becoming more and more isolated. There are lots of reasons for this, which I will explore in another post about social media, but it is worth mentioning here, that often when we feel low, exhausted or fed up, we may be overexposed to socialisation, and not the good kind. Let me explain.

Think about life even 20 years ago. We went to work or school, socialised, and went home. We maybe went back out a couple of nights a week for a club or event or to visit a friend or family member, but that was it. That was the extent of our socialising, we saw the people we wanted to see, forged strong connections with them, and generally enjoyed these activities (or we wouldn’t have kept going). When we were at home we were with family or alone, but we were relaxing and switching off. Now we are all switched on all of the time. We have instant access to basically anyone at basically any time of the day. We are exposed to the beliefs and opinions of others constantly. Rather than investing in our long term friendships, we are spreading ourselves thinner than ever, engaging with online groups and forums, often feeling more connected to strangers than we do anyone in our “real lives”. We are over exposed to socialising.

We are over exposed to socialising.

For some people this is great. They are extroverts, they feel energised by being with others or talking to others, they love company, conversation and engaging online or in person. These are the people who go to groups, keep up with events online, post pictures and share their lives with others, and still have the energy in the evening to phone their friends, arrange date nights and meet ups. For other people (many people) this can be exhausting and they can find it really challenging to keep up with this pace constantly. Yet because we are exposed to all of this information, and these unrealistic ideas of what our lives “should be”, we feel as if we have to keep this up.

So before I get too rambling about social media, let’s bring this right back to the point. We are talking about self-care. And yes for some this might mean getting out more, connecting (in person) with others and developing and maintaining good friendships. Because those who tell you “I’m lucky I have had this friend for 10 years”? It is not luck, it is time and energy invested on both parts. To be honest I don’t think we, as a society, are at risk of not doing enough. I think we are much more at risk of doing too much. Think about the last time you went out and socialised. You might have visited a friend, done something with your children, helped a family member or colleague, gone to a party or met someone for a pint. Why did you go? Did you go because you wanted to, and it was important to your needs? Or did you go because you felt like you should- you didn’t want to let them down, be seen as a bad person etc. Let’s not get this wrong, I appreciate that we all have responsibilities. Things that need to be done. However sometimes I wonder if we confuse the idea of being “responsible for” and “responsible to”. Let me explain. We are responsible for ourselves, and often our children. We might be responsible for another, a vulnerable adult for example, but that is it. Everyone else we are responsible to. This means we have a responsibility to them, to respect them and treat them with kindness, but we are not responsible for them, for their needs or feelings. This is really tricky in a society that seems selfishness as such a negative trait. Think about this example: You get home from work after a long day, you are emotionally and physically tired. You need to collect your child from their grandparents. You are responsible for this child and their needs, so this needs to come first. You don’t have too much choice in the matter, you need to put your own needs to one side and go to pick up your child. In a similar example, if you get home, tired, and your friend has asked you to come and help with something, you are not responsible for this friend, and actually your own needs are equally as valid. In this case you have the choice about whether you want to go or not. Many of us just go because we are afraid to let them down. We don’t want to upset them. But the reality is that if they are upset, it is not actually our responsibility. We can quite kindly say, I am really tired tonight and need some rest so I can’t make it over. How they take that is on them. This might seem like a harsh line, but in fact, these boundaries are essential when we are talking about self-care.

Boundaries are essential when we are talking about self-care.

Being able to say no, and feel okay with this decision, it is hard. We want to be helpful to others, be a good friend, a good person, so we say yes. We do things even when we don’t want to. And in some cases this is okay. Sometimes we need to help others and sometimes we want to. I am talking about the times when your body is telling you that you need something else. You need quiet, or rest. You need time out where you do not have to socialise. On these occasions, it is okay to say no. In fact, it is important that you say no. Say it kindly, but say it all the same. In the same way that you are not responsible for anyone else, nobody else is responsible for you. You are responsible for you. And you deserve to get your needs met.

So next time you are asked to do something, go somewhere, be with somebody, stop and have a think. 1) Am I responsible for or to this person and 2) what are my needs right now and is this in line with what I need. And if not, 3) do I still want to do it? If the answer is no, take a good look at that situation and what your beliefs are (eg. I can’t be selfish, I should go, I don’t want them to think badly) and if you’re feeling really brave, have a think about where those beliefs come from, and see if you can challenge them! Hopefully your friends will support you in this endeavour to meet your own needs, and they will understand. These are the good friends, the keepers. If you find yourself saying no and being met by a lot of criticism, it may be time to re-evaluate some of your friendships. Think about it in reverse, if you were hoping a friend would come and help you, but they rang to say they were having a hard time, they were really exhausted and needed some rest, How would you feel? Yes you might be disappointed, but would you judge them? Of course not. You would want them to be okay. Practicing good boundaries means that we end up surrounded by others who really support us and value us regardless of whether or not we are helping them. So give it a go!

Good luck, and take care of yourself