I’ve been thinking a lot lately about limits. Namely, about setting them, because I feel like more and more, the hard limits I’ve put in place are getting chipped away. After seven months of quarantine, I feel exposed, as if the boundaries I set up for myself – the things that protect me – are almost gone.
We’re made to feel guilty for setting limits. Or at least, we’re made to feel like it’s a bad idea. As if limits are shackles rather than keys to freedom. You hear the message all the time: Don’t limit yourself. Fans of Mean Girls love to say “the limit does not exist.” If you do an internet search for limit or limitation quotes, you’ll find a lot of well-meaning people and memes exhorting you not to limit yourself and telling you that your self-limitation is holding you back.
I’m here to say this in response: Bullshit.
Okay, maybe not bullshit. That sounds mean. Perhaps baloney. (As opposed to bologna or Bologna, which are, respectively, a lunchmeat and a city.)
I maintain that limits are good and that limiting myself is healthy. Do you want people driving down your street, which is presumably a 25-mile-per-hour zone if you live in the States, at 50mph? No, you don’t. We tell people all the time how they should behave using limits. We call them regulations, guidelines, laws, rules, policies, etc. They might chafe sometimes, but they’re necessary, mainly because there are people among us without a lick of common sense. You’ve met them, I’m sure.
But back to limiting ourselves. Sometimes, it has to be done because otherwise, we’d work ourselves to death. Case in point: I’ve noticed during this prolonged pandemic quarantine that my day job is creeping in and taking over my personal time. I’m working longer hours for no extra pay with a double scoop of stress. Why? Because I’m so damn reachable and available. There are no limits to the ways in which my colleagues can get ahold of me, and with everyone in different time zones and on different schedules, I’m getting messages at all hours of the day, seven days a week.
Before the quarantine, I had to commute to work. Invariably, I’d get on the bus in the morning, do a quick check of my work email, and then promptly take a nap on the ride into work. At the end of the day, I’d get on the bus, do a quick email check, and then promptly read a book or watch Netflix on the ride home. Now, there’s no pesky commute. I’m not tied to a bus schedule. I’m not checking to make sure I catch my ride to work or home. Instead, I get on my email while still in my pajamas and stay on my work computer until well after my appointed clocking out time. Rather than paying attention to my schedule, I’m making myself available to my employer almost 24/7. I’m at their beck and call. Every day is a work day. And it’s not like they’re making me do it. My work phone is just THERE. So I pick it up. On a Saturday. And start working. Like an IDIOT.
If you’re like me, you have trouble saying “no.” You don’t want to disappoint people or miss out on something or lose an opportunity. You especially don’t want to put limits on yourself. So you say “yes” to everything. And sometimes, things are fine. Other times, no so much. But do you ever find that the more you say “yes” to things you’d rather not do, the more you have to say “no” to things you’d rather be doing?
Put another way: Your no limits lifestyle is actually quite limiting.
I’ve started putting down limits again. Lines I refuse to cross or tasks I won’t take on. My work phone is put away at the end of the day. If I don’t see that email sent at 8pm, the world will still continue to spin. The sun will still rise in the east. It can wait until I clock back in the next day. And when I say “no” to that overtime, I get to say “yes” to other things.
So I say it again: Limits are good. Saying “no” is powerful. Don’t be afraid to tell others they can expect only so much and not an inch more, because your time and energy are worth so much. You deserve to have the freedom to choose how to spend them.