You want to stop feeling selfish about setting boundaries? Here’s one way: Switch your focus away from yourself and onto protecting the gifts that have been entrusted to you.
Focusing on yourself too much goes hand in hand with emotional instability.
It also leads to either
- Puffing up (selfishness and feeling entitled) or
- Collapse (self sacrifice and feeling unworthy).
Neither feels good.
They’re both forms of separation. That’s why people who are too nice struggle with feeling like they don’t belong. Self-sacrifice and selfishness both set you apart from others.
Here’s a way around it – take the focus off yourself.
Your gifts – your abilities and personal qualities – don’t belong to you. You’re their guardian. You’ve been given them to look after. Protecting those gifts is not selfish. It’s your job.
If you have a child, they might be referred to as ‘your’ child. But you don’t own them. They’re yours to take care of before they move on into the world.
Or imagine you’re carrying a lit candle. The flame isn’t “yours”. Your job is to cup it with your hand as you carry it so it doesn’t get blown out on the way to pass it on.
Our gifts have been largely handed to us through genetics, personal history, culture, and economics. If I’m good at maths, how much credit should I take for that? Sure, I may have worked at it, but that’s only one aspect. There’s also the quality of teaching I had, whether I had a supportive home life, access to learning materials, the particular genes I inherited, and so on.
When we take too much ownership of our gifts it either makes us big-headed or makes us feel as if we can throw them away. But your gifts are not yours to squander. They’re yours to protect just like you’d cup a candle to protect it from the wind.
You may have specific skills such as managing projects, playing the violin or writing code. But your greatest gifts might be personal qualities. They could be your warmth, your sense of humour, or the way your laugh lights up a room.
What situations or demands are dimming those gifts?
And what boundaries do you need to set to protect them?
That’s not being selfish. That’s taking care of the flame you were entrusted with in order to safely carry it into the world.
If you’d like to feel better and get better at setting boundaries, you might like my instant access course Making Friends With Boundaries. You can see if it’s right for you here.