As a sensitive soul, it might seem like asking for what you need simply isn’t possible.
Of course boundaries are a good idea, you think.
When your yoga teacher talks about them, you nod and agree.
You might think you should be better at boundaries.
(You might even try sometimes, only to shy away at the last moment, or give in when you said you wouldn't.)
But really truthfully, underneath it all, you believe that most of the time, boundaries are for those with a thicker skin.
They're for other people who don't feel as much and care as much as you do.
And the thing is: you love being a caring person.
You can't imagine stifling your compassionate heart.
It's who you are.
So at some point you resigned yourself to the fact that getting overstretched and overused just comes with the territory.
I used to think it was inevitable too.
I used to think there were things that needed to be held that only I could hold.
I used to think no one else had the intimate knowledge needed to take care of him in just the right way, and that if I saw him suffer any more, my heart would break in two.
I used to think that if I didn't step in, no one else would prevent her from total emotional breakdown and the subsequent drama rippling out in every direction.
I used to think that my problems weren't as bad as their problems, so deferment to their needs was a given.
It came down to two options: being caring and overburdened, or hard hearted and isolated.
And since I couldn't imagine not being caring, I assumed it was my lot in life to be overtaxed, weighed down and emotionally exhausted.
I wish I'd known then that boundaries could be soft and steady at the same time.
I wish I'd known that I would actually feel safer and more protected once I found compassionate ways to make requests that aligned with my sensitive heart (rather than buckling down and putting up walls).
I wish I'd known that there was another way, that I could rewrite the script on old patterns of obligation and defensiveness, that I could break the cycle of painful conversations based in shame and blame.
I wish I'd known that setting boundaries actually begins with my own practice of being more attuned to my sensitive heart, not less, and that finding the right words (though helpful) isn't as important as how I take care of myself before and after.
I wish I'd had the tools to untangle and heal the deep fears that used to stop me in my tracks and leave me in tears whenever I attempted to give my needs equal weight as the needs of others.
And wish I'd known I could do it all without the resentment or the guilt.
Because a sacred exhale of ease awaited me on the other side.
I had no idea how much more I would enjoy and actually live inside my own life.
I had forgotten the rich smell of my own soul-soil, and the vibrant joys and connections that naturally arise there.
I didn't know I'd become even softer than I'd been before, even more compassionate with myself, my family, my friends, and the world.
And I especially didn't know how my loved ones would breathe a sigh of relief, how my relationships would deepen with the trust that only comes when the guesswork stops (when they know that I say what I mean, and I mean what I say).
So, dear one, I'm here to say:
You don’t have to toughen up or tone it down.
You don’t have to put up every shield and muscle through to get what you need.
You don’t have to abandon your deep feeling ways to be able to set a boundary, make a request or decline an invitation to reclaim your time and energy.
You don't have to become someone else (of course you can't) to live the life you want.
You are meant for an untethered, resilient and beloved life.
And you already have the wisdom you need.
Your sensitive heart is here to show you the way.