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Self-Love and Boundaries

Boundaries are an often misunderstood concept. I thought of them completely backwards for many years. You see, I was a “nice guy”. I put those words in quotes because nice guys tend to be inauthentic and deceitful, and the person they lie to the most is themselves. I believed that setting boundaries was an attempt to impose my will upon others, and this was something that a nice person wouldn’t do. I wanted to show people how much I cared for them and loved them. However, my mind flipped the whole narrative. When I did something nice for someone and they gave me attention, praise, or love in return, it felt great. Without me realizing it, seeking love and attention became the new purpose of my actions. I wasn’t being nice out of some authentic love toward others, I was doing it to feel love from others. It took me a very long time to figure out what was going on in my own head. When I started to feel resentment toward someone because they weren’t giving me the attention and love I was unconsciously seeking, I would admonish myself for those feelings and double-down on the nice guy routine. It turns out I had an unconscious and unspoken rule book or manual for other people, and rule number one was “I do something nice for you and you give me some positive attention”. In short-term relationships this rule worked well. But it turned out to be a very poor long-term strategy.

Have you ever had that feeling of infatuation at the start of a new relationship? You become so attentive to, and intertwined with, the other person that you lose yourself to some degree. The honeymoon period ends when you try to figure out who you are as an individual inside this new relationship. Imagine trying to keep the honeymoon period alive by remaining attentive and intertwined and never putting up boundaries as an individual. It doesn’t work, or at least it’s unhealthy.

I had many aha moments on my journey out of the nice guy syndrome. One of these came when listening to one of my many teachers in life, Brooke Castillo. She said that you should never outsource love. It is your job to love yourself. That blew me away. I realized that if I could love myself, then I could act out of that love instead of acting to receive love from others. But loving myself required me to figure out who I was independent of others and to place those boundaries. Before, when I didn’t feel love toward others, I would be disgusted with myself. This only served to reinforce my attention-seeking, nice guy behavior. I needed to get love from somewhere and it definitely wasn’t coming from me. Once I learned to love myself, my mindset shifted. I still had loving thoughts toward others, but I also had them for myself. So, I could still be kind and loving toward others, but I didn’t need anything in return. I was giving myself the love I needed. How do we develop self love? Start by honoring your preferences and developing boundaries. You can find short introductory articles on those topics in the blog section of my website.

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