“What Am I Even Doing Here?” Boundary Lessons From A 7 Year Old
Boundaries are one of THE musts of a healthy life at home, in relationships, and in work. I have to tell you this amazing story a dear friend of mine shared about her sweet daughter, Elle. What seemed like a harmless American Girl Doll play date turned into an important life lesson. Elle was playing at a friend’s house with two sisters and American Girl Dolls. The sisters were really having a day. I get it we all have those days. You’ve heard it, the back and forth, can’t get it right, must push through with an argument kind of a day. Throughout this play date, Elle just stayed to herself and kept playing with her American Doll, probably doing her best to ignore the sisters. The sisters’ mom attempted to intervene and made the logical argument that there are three American Dolls and three girls wanting to play…you can do the math. Sometimes logical solutions don’t add up for sisters, and so the debating continued. On the way home, it was just the sisters’ mom and Elle in the car. Elle has a great relationship with her friend’s mom and felt comfortable sharing about her experience. Elle says to her, the sisters were just having such a hard time and arguing and going on and on and at one point I just thought to myself, “what am I even doing here?”
YES! Exactly Elle, you brilliant and wise 7 year old. We hear you! How many times in life, whether in home, relationships, or work does this hit us, “what am I even doing here?” It’s a great line. A funny little story in one sense that Elle had this beautiful insight, but in truth she is right on. SPOT on. And how amazing, that Elle is already being confronted by boundaries and that she had the confidence to question and acknowledge that this situation was not quite right…something is off here and I’m not sure why I’m here.
We’ve all been there. Draining work can cause this feeling. Toxic relationships that we somehow get stuck in can cause this feeling. And the worst part is that we can get used to it and forget that we have a choice. I’m not saying we can quit our jobs or walk away from all of our relationships, but we do have a choice around personal boundaries and protecting our emotions. If something isn’t feeling right and is maybe taking too much of our own emotional energy, it is ok to have a limit.
I talk about this often in therapy as our own personal capacity. Once our limit is hit, that’s when it’s important to set up a barrier or a boundary. Even if we are unable to remove ourselves from the situation or relationship, we can engage in it in a different way that doesn’t allow for the drain…a way that we advocate for ourselves…a way that is protective. Thinking through, and practicing saying no, whether it’s one more ask at work, another volunteering job for our kid’s sports team, a need from our spouse, or even a possibly toxic relationship, it’s very important that we learn how to say no.
Asking the questions is the first step to building some awareness and perspective:
- What am I even doing here?
- Why am I giving this relationship so much of my emotional energy?
- Do I have more time to give?
- Do I have more emotional energy to give?
- What is this doing for me? How is this filling me up, or is it?
Ask the questions, and then think it through. Life is full and our capacity is only so much. It’s important that we save that capacity for the things that bring us joy, wellness, safety, positivity, and the good stuff that fills us up. Practicing saying no, setting limits, and pulling back from challenging relationships is hard work, so practice on the small things. But start by asking the questions.
There are so many variables in life we cannot control. Stoic Quote “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?” – Epictetus. One thing we can control is where we spend our time and our energy, and even how much of it we give. We can give a little, but we can also protect a little and hold back a little in order to avoid landing in a place where we are with Emma wondering, “what am I even doing here?”
If you are someone looking to find support with personal and professional boundaries and enhancing meaningful relationships, there are therapists such as myself that specialize in supporting these needs. Please contact me here. I offer free 15 minute consultations where I’ll try to get an idea of what you are dealing with and how I can help. I can let you know if I think therapy would be a good fit for you. We will get a good sense of each other and can decide if I’m the best fit for you. Together we will make a plan for the next steps.