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Something I’m very aware of is that I have an in-built discomfort about ‘inconveniencing’ others. Thanks to being a recovering people-pleaser and it being as natural to me as breathing because it started in early childhood, my longstanding habit was to put others before myself. It’s easy to couch this as being benevolent, generous, self-sacrificing, loving, a team player, considerate and conscientious, kind and whatnot, but it’s not. 

There is nothing wrong with doing something for others. If, however, you do it because your default is to devalue your time, energy, effort, emotions and basically who you are (your bandwidth, values and needs), you’re ‘giving’ and ‘accomodating’ for the wrong reasons. In fact, you are ‘putting others first’, ‘giving’, and inconveniencing yourself because of underlying feelings of unworthiness. 

How you do one thing is how you do a lot of things. 

Sometimes it’s hard to see how feelings of low self-worth and fear of inconveniencing others manifest in more significant actions and decisions in your life. You might call it being a loving partner, good parent, devoted son/daughter, great friend or team player. It’s why you might play roles in your interpersonal relationships. You’re trying to keep the other person happy and get what you want without making them uncomfortable. Note: this does not work.

But think about what you do when there’s a possibility of voicing a need or a want and it differing from someone else’s. Consider your response in situations where it feels like you are or could potentially inconvenience others. What do you tend to do then? Do you come last?

Because I’m a recovering people-pleaser, I’m attuned to noticing when my inner pleaser shows up. When I was recently asked to choose between two platforms for hosting an upcoming meeting, I opted for Zoom. On the day of the meeting, though, I received details for logging into Microsoft Teams. For a few minutes, I wasn’t going to say anything–and then I halted.

I noticed the chatter in my head, the anxiety about inconveniencing them or appearing “difficult”. The chatter and feelings let me know that I was creeping over my boundaries in those moments.

So I pinged over an email requesting Zoom, and it was all sorted. 

Now, sure, some would argue that it’s no big deal to use Microsoft Teams instead of Zoom. That’s absolutely true. But what people get sidetracked by with boundaries is focusing on the content (request, expectation, other people’s supposed feelings) instead of what their response is telling them about the boundary. It’s a bit like when people think that self-care is, for instance, taking a bath. No, the self-care is putting aside time for you to do something for your relaxation and restoration. 

Sure, I could have gone ahead with a Microsoft Teams meeting, but:

1) I didn’t need to do that with anxious feelings and critical chatter and, 

2) I must not see anything that differs from my needs, expectations, desires, feelings and opinions as me inconveniencing others. 

It’s OK for you to have needs. There’s also nothing wrong with having preferences, principles and priorities. Even if you consider and prioritise you some of the time, it’s better than none of the time.

Sometimes the way to pick up on the big boundary issues is to pick up on the seemingly small acts of boundary neglect. Notice yours and use them as opportunities to take better care of you. 

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