By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
For myself, and I think many others, the holiday season and ringing in the new year often turn into great points for reflection. This time of year contains “the best” and “the worst”, leading to an “it’s complicated” overall vibe. With that in mind, I decided to write about “kindness”. I observe that as we all reflect on increasing our kindness, we may also find ourselves tinged with resentments, worries, and many other “not kind” feelings.
Do you find yourself giving kindly but not seeing kindness in return? Do you perhaps feel like others “take my kindness for weakness”? Do you feel taken advantage of or the nice person that always finishes last? If so, then I propose gifting yourself the intention toward improved boundary setting. Setting good boundaries can influence every area of your life. It can be, itself, a resolution, or something that supports all your others.
Consider you would like to set an intention to exercise more. What gets in the way? Time, money, work? Boundaries can help you defeat those barriers. Sound easier said than done? You are absolutely right! My clients are well aware I never pretend doing this work will merely be following a step by step guide. In fact, this WILL be difficult, feelings will come up (especially the ones we don’t like feeling), and pushback IS likely – at first. However, if you can overcome those icky, difficult things, you will find yourself being more in control of your life.
Setting boundaries around kindness, like setting boundaries around most anything, breaks into two contributors. First, the “you” part. Second, the “them” part. I ask you to consider how focusing on “them” changing has worked for you so far. I’m guessing it hasn’t. So, I ask you to consider the “you” part. That’s the part we have control over and can most influence.
If you are feeling up in arms right now, I understand. You may have heard plenty before that you ‘should’, “get over it,” or realize, “that’s just how they are”, or stop “making it a big deal”. That’s not what I propose at all. In fact, the first part of examining your end is to provide validation to yourself for what you feel. It makes sense to feel frustrated if you give a gift and aren’t thanked for it. It makes sense to feel sad that no one remembered your anniversary. It makes sense to be bummed if a friend can’t hang out when you wanted. Those are all valid feelings for such situations. Maybe other people don’t get those same feelings for those same situations, but everyone is different. You aren’t “feeling it wrong”. Neither are they. Your feelings are valid.
After acknowledging and validating your feelings investigate what role you might be playing in the situation. Kindness is tricky. Try to consider what you, personally, find kindness to be. Is it really being “nice” no matter what? Is it giving of yourself to someone only if they ‘deserve’ it? Is it an action or just a way of being? You may realize kindness is not giving just to get, nor is it giving in to what others want/demand from us. Especially during the holidays, we might need to adjust our thoughts away from kindness being what we deem “fair”. Do we really need to spend the exact same amount on every family member to be kind? Do we need to give and give in order to be consider kind people?
Perhaps you can give yourself permission to no longer send a card or a gift to someone who never thanks you. Perhaps you can change your thinking and decide the feeling of giving is enough for you even without a thanks. Perhaps you demonstrate kindness to yourself and remove yourself from obligations you and others don’t actually enjoy. Consider how looking at your rules around kindness either help or hurt you. They are YOUR rules so maybe changing them to feel better is worth the discomfort of making adjustments?
What feelings arise for you when considering setting boundaries? Do you have any tips for others on changing the kindness mindset? I would love to hear your thoughts!
JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!