How can I have empathy AND set boundaries?

Updated: Dec 31

“How can I simultaneously care for someone I love, while also prioritizing my own needs?” “How can I stare a loved one in the face who is hurting and still choose to do something for me?” “How can I have empathy and compassion AND set boundaries which are likely to disappoint, anger, and hurt feelings?” Some of us have so deeply integrated the belief we come last. We have embodied the belief others are entitled to our time, attention, and resources, before ourselves. So, we practice deliberate self betrayal, justifying that it’s only temporary and that, at some point, we will take care of ourselves when it is FINALLY convenient for everyone else. But… it’s never convenient. There are always fires to put out. Someone is always in need. Someone always has a more urgent problem than we do. Someone always has an expectation of us. All of the “someday it will be my turn” thoughts eventually fade. Because simply waiting for others to stop experiencing the pain of life, will never create the time and space you need to fully live your own life. So what then? Do we turn a cold shoulder to the pain we see in others? No. Compassion and boundaries are actually quite good friends. I can hold a space of empathy and love for any hurting person, without taking ownership of fixing it. I can respect someone else’s ability to figure things out, learn from their mistakes, and fully experience all of life’s bruises, failures, and triumphs, just like I have. I can allow someone the dignity to navigate their own life and trust their ability to make their own choices, without tr