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Boundaries: The Martyrdom of Giving Too Much

7190972_sYears ago when I first started my business I received a referral for a full price client. Mind you at this point in my teaching career I was offering a slew of $5 class and driving long distances to give $20 private lessons and Reiki treatments. People were taking advantage of me left and right and I let it happen because I was new and didn’t think I had enough experience to say otherwise. So the universe flashed open and in walked a messenger.

The messenger was disguised as a very polite, serious businessman with some basic joint stiffness and limited mobility. He was an athlete and had very taut, short muscles. Sitting down with him to discuss his case the stretches that I offered were very obvious and basic to me, but completely new to him. No one had ever named his areas of weakness and taught him how to strengthen them.

The session ran long because I didn’t know how to end it and when we finally finished he asked me how much he owed me. I politely told him a figure to which he scoffed. He corrected me reminding me that the figure I had named was my hourly rate and we had run close to 90 minutes. He instead told me how much he owed and wrote a check for the full appointment. He smiled and said he got paid by the hour himself and everyone tried to take advantage of him.

I would love to say that this one experience drastically changed my business and my life, but it didn’t. I didn’t heed the messenger’s suggestion. Now all these years later I am ready to listen.

I’m really good at what I do. I can say that with confidence because I’ve spent a lot of my life trying things I’m not good at and I see how naturally this work comes to me.

But I don’t have very good boundaries.

My professional boundaries are great. I know how to maintain appropriate relationships with patients and students. I know what parts of a patient’s life I am allowed to ask about and comment on and what things are not in my realm. I know how to keep things confidential and how to protect patients’ rights.

It is in the realm of the personal where things get mucky.

I let patients linger too long at appointments not because they want to stay too long but because I’m not setting clear time boundaries. I allow students to ask me questions after class until I am late and rushing to my next engagement. I stay and chat with friends until I’ve missed my designated time for a meal or for some quiet, personal time. I help my husband get out the door in the morning instead of rushing off to an early morning yoga class.

I let my boundaries and my needs get squashed.

When I sit down and plan out my day I know exactly how I want to spend every minute, so when I get caught in mid conversation and don’t escape I know the only person I am hurting is myself. The busier business gets the more I have to scrimp on how much I’m allowed to stomp on my own boundaries. Each week I try to trim the fat a little more and it feels good. Surprisingly enough it makes patients feel more comfortable and I’ve got loads more energy.

As you enter into the holiday season don’t worry about saving money or time, worry about the resources you give away without realizing. No one is expecting those resources and the only person they deplete is you. This is foolish martyrdom and I promise you it always goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Start noticing the moments you end up rushing because someone took too much of your time and you let them have it. Give yourself a gift this holiday season—show up to the holidays rested, satisfied and loving.

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