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How Setting Healthy Boundaries Supports Your Wellbeing

Holiday Pressure

Anna had decided this year she would not visit her family for the holidays. She knew for sure that she would be hearing about this for a while from her parents. She could hear it now, “How could you do this to me!” Her mom would shout. “You are so ungrateful. I have done everything for you, literally everything. You don’t love me; no one does.” This would then be followed by tears and wailing with a slam of the phone. Then her father would call, “Please come home for Christmas. I can’t handle being the only one here to handle your mother. She is angry right now, and you are the only one who can fix it. Please don’t leave me alone. Will you please call her right now and tell her you are coming?” It was a predictable pattern that happened every time her mother felt disappointed or rejected. Usually, her father was able to talk her into making amends with her mother. Meaning she would have to put her feelings and needs to the side. No matter what Anna said, she wasn’t heard.  

No matter what Anna said, she wasn’t heard

She felt torn. She wanted to do the right thing; she wanted to be a good daughter. However, she did not want to feel so suffocated by conflict. She was dreading the phone call to tell them she wasn’t going to make it this year. Should she lie and say she needs to work? She decided to be honest. As predicted, her mother wailed, and her father tried to get her to come home. She decided to stay true to herself even though her hands and her insides were shaking.  

People Pleasing Behaviour

Anna had grown up being told by her parents that she was worthless, ugly, fat and stupid, to name a few. She had been neglected, forgotten about, and placed to the side. Her parents would whip her with a coat hanger as punishment. She had become the family mediator, constantly sorting out everyone’s conflicts and problems. She was always trying to prove to her parents that she was worth their love and attention. If I can help them, take care of them, and do what they want, then maybe they would love me. If I can be good enough, perhaps I won’t be devalued, beaten, and neglected.  

In therapy, she had learned that boundaries were healthy and that she did not deserve abuse because no one did. On the other hand, she had worth whether her parents or anyone else acknowledged it. So she had made up her mind to have a pleasant holiday, even if that meant she was going to be alone.  

Anna’s Healing

She started to reach out to her friends to see what they were doing and perhaps join. She thought about her friends who had empathy, the ones that were nurturing. But, for the most part, they all had plans with their families. This was a loneliness that she had never experienced before. Then, she decided that she would buy herself a gift, cook her favourite meal, and read the books that she had put off. She was starting to heal. It felt refreshing, and her whole body felt lighter. She was true to herself and realized that she never had to prove her worth to anyone ever again.  

During the holidays, she wrote messages to all those who were kind to her. She told them what she appreciated about them and why she cared for them. Each person responded in kind, telling her that she was loved and cared for. The difficult decision to spend the holidays alone was a turning point in her self-worth and her healing.  

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