Blurry Boundaries

I often find myself blurting out too much information in conversations – not the inappropriate/creepy/bathroom humor kind of TMI but rather, this is an intimate, complex thought of mine that this person (or these people) probably won’t understand or appreciate kind of TMI. Sometimes I answer questions with seemingly odd or random details that make perfect sense to me but elicit confused looks. This goes beyond being “bad” at small talk, I think; I’m bad at casual talk.

It’s not that I’m a snob. In fact, I am normally up on celebrity gossip, the weather forecast, and whatever trashy headlines are littering the news. But still, it’s difficult to talk for very long with people about these sorts of things.

At the root of sharing too much may be a desire to keep the conversation going, to say the “right” thing, or to prove myself in some way. It’s a tendency to over explain, and frequently the tone is apologetic. Saying things I’d rather keep private makes me feel as if I’ve lost a little bit of myself.

There are only a handful of people with whom I enjoy talking for a long time. The conversation can burn on and on because, well, they are similar to me. They are kind of weird, analytical, curious, and creative in drawing connections. Plus, they know me well. We can unearth the awkward memories, go off on familiar or new tirades, or simply orbit in circles around the same idea until we’re both utterly sick of it.

This is how my mind wants to think and talk. Therefore, I am sometimes left biting my tongue, trying not to respond to innocuous, routine questions such as –

How was your night?


Well, it was okay, actually, it was a little strange – I was obsessing over whether or not to read the rest of my novel before starting a new one, and I went to bed with that terrible song ___________ stuck in my head, which was my favorite song in fourth grade and again in tenth grade, and I had another dream about broken elevators that I think Freud would explain as . . .

Yes, sometimes I DO utter bizarre answers or thoughts, and I feel embarrassed and disappointed afterward. I tell myself that I should “say less” next time or keep more things private. Ideas that tread so beautifully in my head come splashing out of my mouth, flailing like suffocating fish. It’s hard to help it though.

People Pleasers

Besides oversharing things, I suffer from Yes Person syndrome. This is not a good thing. I think the two problems are related to having fragile boundaries.


A classic people pleaser brings all of his coworkers customized lattes because HE FEELS BAD for drinking Starbucks in front of them!

I’ve been reading Anxious to Please: 7 Revolutionary Practices for the Chronically Nice by Craig English and James Rapson. This book hit home with me. The writing is pretty blunt and uncolorful, and it’s mostly focused on people-pleasing in romantic relationships rather than with friends, family, or work relationships. Still, they make their point well.  They explain that people pleasers are too “nice,” always saying yes, always anxious to put everyone else first; but what lies beneath the compulsion to be too nice is anxious attachment. (Topic for a future post?)

Nice people are probably lugging around a lot of resentment and anger with nowhere to dump it but on themselves. Said emotions may rage out eventually when they get too overwhelming to stifle anymore.

Saying yes too much means saying no to what is actually good for you. Feeling guilty for not appeasing someone leads to a weaker sense of self. You can be introspective, deep, intelligent, but still have a weak self – a self that is too porous, too extended beyond its skin, letting in unwelcome toxic energy, or maybe just giving away too much precious energy.

Those of us who are not naturally assertive know that 1) We sometimes get taken advantage of for being too nice; 2) People like us because we listen, we help, we make people feel special – we see others as more deserving than us; 3) But, we admire assertiveness. People who are assertive command respect. Being assertive just doesn’t come easy.

Stronger Boundaries

So how can a person strengthen their boundaries, learn to say no sometimes, reserve information for those who are worthy of hearing it, and keep the emotional vampires at a distance?

~Pause to reflect on time and . . . death. Yes indeed, didn’t I recently read (maybe in some Psychology Today article?) that meditating on death helps people relieve anxiety or depression? Stop and wonder, will saying no and possibly hurting this person’s feelings really matter a year from now? This is a classic strategy. It never fails to help me put things into perspective, when I remember to do it. I have a few momento mori (“remember that you will die”) pictures hanging around my living spaces, too.

Life is short. Don’t spend it pleasing everyone besides yourself.



~Keep a running list of times you stood up for yourself, spoke up, or were generally an admirable badass. Look back at the list when needed. Celebrate everything, especially small moments that may seem silly. Reclaiming your power is a big deal.

~Seek out people who make you feel good. React naturally to everyone in your life, and listen to your gut. Accept how you feel when you see that person’s name when they text you. Become more aware of who makes you feel good, and why. Cherish your real friends, however many or few. Healthy relationships will, most of the time, not leave you drained, confused, or insecure. They should feel nourishing and safe.

~Be more proactive in scheduling your time. I still find myself missing the target with this one. The more you fill your days with things, and people, that matter to you, the better you will feel. You don’t owe anyone your time or energy. You’ll naturally gravitate toward people who deserve your friendship, and making time for the right people will not feel obligatory or burdensome.

~Forgive yourself when you find that you’ve given away too much time or energy (again). If you feel overextended, overexposed, anxious to please, go somewhere quiet, be alone, and meditate. If you feel indecisive about making a decision, choose an option that will make you happy. Sometimes life CAN be easy, if we choose to let it be so.


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