As an empath or highly sensitive person (HSP) who was raised in a family of narcissists, I have struggled a lot with setting healthy boundaries.
I was the peace keeper, the one who never stood up to anyone no matter how vicious they were. Why? Because I didn’t want to hurt them back, I wasn’t aware of the reasons they were such mean and bitter people, there was the possibility that something terrible had happened to cause the effect I was experiencing from them. Instead, I drained myself trying to make them happy, to help them, to encourage and to fix them, I let myself become a human boxing bag because as long as they had me to beat up they seemed happier.
The thing is, this is not healthy. It isn’t healthy for us, and it is not healthy for them. Enabling bad behavior only reinforces that it is acceptable behavior, it isn’t. And as for us, we are left battered and bruised emotionally, an empty shell with nothing left to give to ourselves, or to others. Healthy boundaries are essential!
1. You can not save everyone, no matter how much you love them!
You can die trying, but that is all you will do. People have to want your help, if you are in a relationship of any sort with someone who is suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, they likely do not want your help, and will resent you for trying to give it to them. They do not feel they have a problem, unless it is you. You can not save someone who does not want to be saved no matter how much you love them, it will drain you until you can barely survive.
2. “No” is a complete sentence!
You are allowed to say “No” without explaining why. You are allowed to say “No” without begging for forgiveness. We all should want to help others whenever we can, but it is not healthy to always say yes to everyone and everything all of the time.
3. It is okay to distance yourself from those who abuse you.
Even if others are telling you that you must stay, if you are in a situation where you do not feel safe, or you can not emotionally or physically cope any longer, you can walk away. I have had so many people tell me that I must stay in contact with my emotionally abusive mother, even telling me I must allow my children to be in contact with her, but this is just not right. For my household’s sake, I have had to put some distance between us, my own obligations to look after my children, and their mother (myself) is paramount.
4. Putting healthy boundaries in place will make people angry, do it anyway!
If others have been used to you always saying “yes”, always running to their aide, and listening to their bitterness, hatred, and anger, they will certainly be angry if you put some boundaries in place to protect yourself. Once you limit their access to supply, expect to become public enemy number one in their eyes, but do it anyway! In the end you are going to be so much better off, and so will those who respect you and cherish the love and time you give to them!
5. Taking care of yourself is essential, not selfish.
“You cannot pour from an empty cup” is a well known proverb most of us would have heard at some stage or another, but it is accurate. If you do not take care of yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually, you will have nothing to give anyone else. It is not selfish to occasionally make yourself a priority. If you want to help others, it is a necessity that you help yourself too.
If you love to love people, and feel a deep need to be a helper, that is an amazing thing. Don’t change! But do not let it become a curse! There are times I have cried so much wondering why I had been cursed with what others called a gift, feeling everyone’s pain, wanting to fix everyone’s problems, sometimes even physically feeling their emotions or pain too. I started to loathe myself for being too sensitive, but it was my own fault. I had become attuned to everything but myself. We must be balanced.
Overwhelmed with emotional distress I became irritable and often tearful. Healthy boundaries were no where to be seen, and truthfully I was not a very nice person to those who were closest to me, my dear husband, and my sweet kids, because they were the only ones around to see when I cracked apart from exhaustion.
Set boundaries for yourself, no matter how hard it is. You won’t be sorry, and you will certainly be a nicer person, a healthier person, and in a much better position to help those who truly need it.