They Do Exist.

Boundaries: Denying My Feelings & Carrying Other’s Burdens

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Callie. She tweets at @callandrarose. If you didn’t read the intro we posted to this month’s topic of Boundaries yesterday, please do so here! Oh – and have you checked out our new Community Board yet?! – Lauren

I’ve realized something about myself in the last few months: I have major boundary issues. My boundaries in my primary relationships are undefined or unattended to. This revelation explains my entire life.

Ten years ago, as I was entering my teenage years, my parents announced their separation, leaving me with a lot of emotions and a broken heart. For the last ten years, I have been denying any pain or scars from the divorce while managing the complex dynamics of having two families. I’ve straddled my two families, trying to please and give attention to both. I’ve adapted to the needs and feelings of family members, at the cost of my own. I’ve avoided conflict and confrontation. I’ve carried their burdens and taken on their responsibilities. My relationships with my family still consist of my being the one who sustains most of the relationships; I’m often the one making an effort, even in simple things like making conversation. I’ve been preoccupied with trying to maintain all my intricate relationships that I haven’t worked on some of my heartbreak that was caused by divorce and the family split.

Recently, I have realized how my relationships with my family impact my other relationships. I often find myself in friendships where I am the one managing the relationship. I have accepted the burdens of my friends, without recognizing that I am not the sole bearer of the weight. In one way or another, my friendships have consisted of me denying my feelings, over-concerning myself with their feelings and problems, being unable to say no, feeling guilty for emotions, and rationalizing why I go against my feelings.

To be honest, I don’t reveal my true feelings to others because I am afraid I will hurt them. I don’t tell others when they have overstepped a boundary of mine because I am afraid they will get angry or worse, ridicule me for them. I have consistently denied my own feelings and have over-concerned myself with the feelings of others because I’ve valued others and their feelings over myself and my feelings.

As a result, I’ve been so preoccupied with others’ emotions and issues that I haven’t attended to my own. At all. I couldn’t figure why I hadn’t been dealing with my heart issues because I had been consistently working on them with Jesus. I gave up talking to Jesus about my heart because I didn’t know what was holding me back. I had a hit a wall and I couldn’t explain what that wall was, let alone scale it.

The reason I haven’t worked on my heart issues is because all my emotional energy is spent on my primary relationships. Lately, all this energy has been devoted to one friend. I’m making sure they are alright, talking with them through their issues, thinking constantly about how they are doing and adapting myself to their needs. At the end of the day, I have no energy for myself. I’ve been ignoring my heart issues and Jesus because I literally feel too tired—physically and emotionally.

A few weeks ago, that friend’s burden was placed on me and it was one I could not bear. I was completely overwhelmed, pushed to my edge and I fell, hard. I couldn’t function anymore, not just in my friendship but also as a person. I couldn’t focus on my own tasks and responsibilities, control my own emotions or manage my own stress. Through all that, I realized that I am not called to carry these burdens all by myself. I am called to carry those burdens to Christ, to place them in His arms and trust in His faithfulness.

I’ve learned that positive boundaries aren’t selfish. In establishing good boundaries, I am protecting myself from becoming overwhelmed but also protecting the other from being the subject of my contempt. These boundaries give definition for where personal lines are crossed—in responsibility, emotions, or burdens—so that the relationship can be healthy. They help prevent emotions from being hidden and brewing deep down, waiting to explode. Ultimately, having good boundaries allows me to be a better friend because I am happier and freer.

I’m stepping into freedom and choosing to walk in grace. I am working on my relationships by establishing better boundaries. I am beginning to have revelations and heart healing because I am becoming free of the weight of these burdens. I am learning to speak up for myself and express my emotions.

As good women, we must stop taking on more than we are called to bear. We need to ask the Lord which burdens we are to rightly bear and give them to Him. We must not deny our feelings and hide them away anymore. Instead, we must digest our feelings with Jesus and those close confidants He’s placed in our lives. We need to ask, “What am I feeling?” and “Why?” Once we have figured out what we are feeling and why, we must own our own feelings and express them appropriately.

Because the truth is, my feelings – and your feelings – are as important as the feelings of others.

The truth is, we are not called to carry our burdens or anyone else’s all on our own.

God doesn’t want us to be overwhelmed by our relationships. He doesn’t want us to carry the burdens of others to a point of our harm. It is the desire of His heart for us to spend time with Him and to give Him the weight on our shoulders.

The truth is that good boundaries establish right relationships — ones that are aligned with heart of God, that give freedom and grace.


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17 Responses

  1. Thank you for this beautifu post Callie!! I can totally relate and this has been one of the hardest lessons for me to grasp. And it's something I have to continually work on.

    April 4, 2012 at 8:45 am

    • Callie

      You're more than welcome. I'm still grasping this lesson myself as I've only recently been learning about this. It is something we have to be deliberate about.

      April 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm

  2. bree

    thank you for your post and for articulating what i have always felt…the cheerleader who is always there for others helping them on through their problems but clueless on who she is and without any ambition of her own. i always found meaning and purpose by being there for others and when they left or no longer needed me i was totally lost!
    for many years, i battled this lack of identity and my inability to say no or confront people when they hurt me… i always thought that this is just who i am, but last year i had to confront my past and the fears and insecurities i had that were rooted in my childhood and accept what impact they had had on who i now am.
    the road to self discovery has been long and hard and i am far from the end of it, but if there's any thing i have come to accept, its that i am right where God wants me to be, for He is sovereign over EVERYTHING even the hurtful events of my childhood, and I can only trust Him with what He is doing in me and the purpose He has for my pain, though I nay not see it now.
    Concerning boundaries, that's a lesson I am still learning… I always feel like I could give more, love more, understand more, push my self harder… it will make me selfless and that's a good thing right?… Not always, and especially not if the approval and praises of people is the motivation… i am still learning. God help me.

    April 4, 2012 at 9:56 am

    • Callie

      Bree,
      That's exactly how I felt with my friend recently. I felt I could give more, love more, understand more, be selfless. Applying what I have learned about my boundary issues isn't going to be easy. I'm still in the beginnings of it. But He holds me and has grace for me even when I fall with it.

      Keep seeking God. Keep learning. Walk in the freedom and grace He has given you.

      April 4, 2012 at 1:39 pm

  3. Ohmy! I am there right now!! Thank you for writing this because I've been needing some guidance. God bless you!

    April 4, 2012 at 11:04 am

    • Callie

      You're so welcome, Tara. I must admit, when I was going through all this last month, I kept wishing that boundaries was the topic. It didn't occur to me that maybe I should share what I am learning. I am glad I did though, so that others may learn, be changed and be healed.

      April 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm

  4. Your wisdom is astounding, Callie. These boundaries are going to make for your having a more focused relationship with others without feeling manipulated. Strength to you and so, so much love.

    April 4, 2012 at 12:31 pm

  5. This was so timely. Precisely what I've been feeling and establishing in my life and it just reaffirmed it all. Thank you!!!

    April 4, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    • Callie

      For that, I am so thankful. Praise God.

      April 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm

  6. Dina

    I also am preoccupied with the issues of others and how I can help. I’m always losing myself in friendships and being swayed by their needs and opinions. I finally realized that I am far too available when others need me (and I’ve thrived on being needed!) yet those people rarely reciprocate that when I need them. I end up beating myself up for being too needy. This article speaks so clearly to what I’ve been working through this past year. I feel like I’m becoming free but also that I have a long way to go. But I am choosing relationships more wisely and asking God who I should be investing in. Thanks for your honesty!!

    April 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm

  7. connienoelle

    This post is so relevant for the work that I do in helping others. My friends say that it's hard for me to even step out of the 'helper' persona as I even adopt the same wording and concern when I'm helping them. Thanks for writing this – I truly don't have to carry the burdens on my own! I can let go and let God take the burdens from my shoulders onto His more than capable shoulders.

    April 4, 2012 at 4:02 pm

  8. It feels good to know that there are others who have felt these burdens. Thank you for a thoughtful post about these issues and for providing ways to change how people let things affect them. I really appreciate the post!

    April 4, 2012 at 7:52 pm

  9. esn

    this was exactly what i needed to read! i am/have been going through the same things. good to see we are never alone :)

    April 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm

  10. This post eloquently puts into words something that I really struggled with two years ago: I was anorexic, but one of my closest friends also had an eating disorder. It was such a toxic friendship for the both of us… And I think we both benefited when we – for lack of a better phrase — stopped talking. Although that went against everything I thought I should do (be a good friend! listen to her! support each other!), our friendship was actually inhibiting out abilities to recover.

    April 16, 2012 at 10:37 pm

  11. thinkdifferently2011

    wow I'm reading everything I need, thank you so much for posting this…I'm on my edge and this really spoke to me. Thank you Thank you! ;)

    December 29, 2012 at 10:08 pm

  12. Bethany Williams

    I can't thank you enough for this post. I have been struggling with these concepts my entire life. And accepting that I am allowed to have boundaries and say no is difficult. It is good to hear that someone has gone through all of this, too. And has recovered. It gives me hope that I am on the right path. So, thank you!

    April 25, 2013 at 8:18 pm

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