Do you have difficulty drawing boundaries?
Take this test and find out.

by Patricia Spadaro

Excerpted from chapter 3 of Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving

Drawing healthy boundaries is more than a cute turn of phrase. Proper boundaries that lead to self-care can actually keep us healthy. More and more scientific research is showing that chronic stress, a symptom of imbalance in the flow of giving and receiving, has a direct link to our health.

One study indicated that women who were experiencing chronic stress or who perceived that they were undergoing high stress had telomeres inside their immune cells that had undergone significant aging (telomeres are the sections of DNA at the tips of our chromosomes). Dennis Novack of Drexel University College of Medicine said that this important study “demonstrated that there is no such thing as a separation of mind and body—the very molecules in our bodies are responsive to our psychological environment.”1 Other studies have linked stress, helplessness, hopelessness, and suppressed emotions to the onset or progression of cancer. When we don’t draw necessary boundaries and learn how to replenish ourselves, when we suppress rather than express our needs, we can jeopardize our lives.

So, can giving be dangerous to your health? If it keeps you from acknowledging and stating your valid needs, yes. If it detracts from your ability to continue giving joyfully and abundantly to others, yes. If your giving to others stunts your own growth, yes, it can be dangerous.

Take the Litmus Test

Bill Cosby once said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” There are times when sacrifice is called for, and there are times when, in the extreme, sacrifice can harm you and others. Do you balance sacrificing for others with drawing boundaries so you can focus on what’s important to you and reinvest in yourself? This litmus test will help you find out where you may need to make adjustments.

  • Do I automatically say yes whenever anyone asks for my help or needs a problem solved? Or do I politely but firmly set boundaries when I need to?
  • Do I always put myself at the bottom of my to-do list? Or do I regularly ask myself what I want and need and then schedule that action into my day as a priority?
  • Do I allow people or events to pull me away from what I plan to do? Or am I literally leading my own life by setting my direction and acting on the values and goals that matter to me?
  • Do I let friends or loved ones consistently monopolize conversations or bully me into going along with their decisions? Or do I speak up, clearly express how I feel, and stand up for myself?
  • Would I rather please others than have a confrontation with them? Or do I challenge invasive and inappropriate behavior and correct others’ misperceptions, even if it means they may not like what I have to say?
  • Does my giving to others prevent them from doing their share or from moving forward on their life’s journey? Or do I draw boundaries so that others do not become overly dependent on me to their detriment?
  • Do I hide behind my sacrifices, filling my time doing things for others to avoid embracing my own calling? Or do I put a priority on developing my own talents so I can give my gifts to others?

Examining why you find it difficult to draw proper boundaries is not necessarily an easy or a comfortable task, but it’s a worthwhile one. We cannot truly heal unless we deal with the underlying issues at the core of our symptoms.

To discover why you may be giving so much to others without giving to yourself, consider starting with this truth: When we avoid doing anything, it’s usually because we fear what it will bring. What do you fear will happen if you draw boundaries or if you don’t sacrifice? Are you afraid that saying no will make others unhappy, and do you believe that it’s your job to make them happy? Are you afraid that if you don’t do what other people want you to do, they will reject you? Do you believe that you have to be compliant in order to be loved?

Don’t be afraid to engage in some deep soul-searching to understand what is driving you to consistently put others first. Once you acknowledge why you may be addicted to sacrifice, you can begin to counter the myths and retrain yourself to react differently. You’ll become better at catching yourself before a situation gets too far out of hand. Tell yourself that it’s okay to be loyal to yourself first for a change. You have a right to hold your own opinions, defend your rights, and make your own decisions. You can choose to be around people who are supportive rather than domineering. You deserve companions who are interested in what you have to say and don’t feel the need to suppress you. You can honor yourself.

(Excerpted from chapter 3 of Honor Yourself.)

To learn more about honoring yourself through setting healthy boundaries and staying in balance, giving with your heart, celebrating your own voice and more, get your copy of Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving.

Read more excerpts from Honor Yourself >>

Empowering insights to help you give to yourself, draw proper boundaries, and get back into balanceplus a quiz to see if you need to set better boundaries

Myth and Magic
"To try to benefit others, and yet not to have enough of oneself to give others, is a poor affair."
—Rabindranath Tagore

"Depending on the circumstances and the timing, giving can be nurturing or toxic, compassionate or crippling. We can get beyond the myth that sacrifice is always right to the magic of balance by learning to live in harmony with this powerful principle: When we are true to ourselves, we help others be true to themselves. When we draw the boundaries that enable us to grow, we help others grow too."
—Patricia Spadaro in
Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving

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