Panagiota Kontoléon • 29 June 2019

Having been born and raised in Greece, boundaries were a foreign concept to me!  If you asked me about them 10 years ago or told me that they are important in having healthy relationships, I would have probably thought you were an alien.  In my culture and family, our family’s and close friends’ problems were also considered ours and we had to make sure we did everything in our power to help solving them regardless if the people having a problem wanted us to help them or not; it was perceived as our obligation.  

I remember my father being different, minding his own business and only engaging if he was asked to.  However, he was often called self-centered and heartless, and often treated as a pariah.  I was confused as a kid because on one hand I was like my father and on the other hand I did not want to be called heartless.  Culture won and as a result I went with the flow so that I would be a good girl and not heartless.  With my current knowledge, of course, I see that my father had a healthier self-concept and an ability to discriminate, but back then I was oblivious to all that.

Right about the age of 45 years old I was feeling exhausted, resentful, disappointed and drained.  I looked back at my life and I realized that I had become like my mother and most Greeks around me who had no boundaries.  Oh, I was angry!  I realized that instead of focusing on my life and myself I was caught up in other people’s problems so much that I would make them my own.  This, coupled with my then need for approval, had resulted in losing myself in long working hours in the corporate world and not only, and in relationships where I would feel overly responsible for the feelings and needs of my partners and friends.  Putting my needs aside made me feel resentment and exhaustion.

This was a turning point in my life.  I started working on myself and getting in tune more and more with my feelings and my needs separating them from other people’s feelings and needs.  It was, and still is, a process and a journey of self-creation.  I started saying no to things that did not support my purpose or to people who were taking me for granted.  I left the corporate world and my relationships started thinning as I was setting boundaries with others.  I stopped going out with men who would not respect my needs and grew apart with friends who were takers or were feeding off of drama.  It was a painful process but at the same time very empowering.

Now, I can say that my few friends are true friends and not partners in crime as they can challenge me because they want to uplift me in my strengths and not to support me in my weaknesses.  My relationships in the family, immediate and extended, have been healthier as I stopped fixing things for them and instead began to empower them to find their own answers and strength.  I am still called heartless sometimes, lol, but striving to live a life without setting my needs aside or getting involved in other people’s drama is quite uplifting. :)