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Giving it All Away: Women and Boundaries

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Since it will never be enough, there comes a point in the day, hour, month, year, moment, or whenever, when you just have to say, “all done,” and walk away.

This means that if your child is needing another story read, your boss needs another something or other, your loved ones--be they family, friends or honey pies--need just another phone call, five dollars, meal, or back rub, you can give them as much as you can and then you can, you must, stop.

Because the truth is that it honestly never will be enough. When we fail to make our own boundaries, we will become burnt out to the point of absolute exhaustion and end up not being there for ourselves or really, for anyone else after awhile.

Women who give too much, love too much, and try and please others too much are the subjects of thousands of articles and essays, books and research. Yet we still find ourselves putting out more effort, energy and love than we can ever hope to redeem; and that’s okay – we don’t always put it out there to have it come back.

What is toxic, though, is getting taken advantage of or even abused due to the generosity of spirit which compels us to give in the first place.

Being strong, loving, giving, generous, kind, loyal, helpful and brave are important and incredible character traits. But we also must be adult, mature, realistic, grounded, healthy and whole, so that we have something left to give, so that we are actually living some of our lives and not just giving every precious moment of it away.

I would assert, too, that if you often find yourself falling into the trap of having to compulsively give wherever you may find a need, there may be something more to it than a simple generosity of spirit. Perhaps you get your self esteem from feeling needed or wanted? Maybe complaining all the time about how much you have to do makes you feel you are productive? Maybe you are afraid of what there may be in store for you if you’re not giving to others all the time?
These are important questions to think about if you’ve come to a crossroads and decided that maybe you want to create some good, strong, solid boundaries in your life. Asking yourself what you may get out of giving when you know giving everything may never be enough is a great first step in figuring out how much you really can give and how much you may want to begin pulling back.

Aimee Boyle lives and writes in CT. She is a regular contributor to EmpowHER.

Add a Comment4 Comments

I have absolute exhaustion everyday.I gave every precious moment away.I now have just enough energy to take care of myself.I would love to help out,do a favour for a neighbour,volunteer.I wish that if these articles would have been there when I was working as a nurse and doing beyond the call of duty,and taking care of my aging parents and my husband who died of cancer. I would have found sometime for myself. My M.D. explained to my I had burnout.I ended up in the hospital for 2 weeks.So women out there please be kind to yourself and don't cut yourself short you are only human.This article is exactly how I feel and live and a good wake call for people who need to slow down and smell the flowers.

April 13, 2011 - 12:04pm
(reply to willalee)


Thanks so much for writing your comment..... it's so hard to create boundaries - we all need them and it's always so difficult to do. Thank goodness these people had you in their lives, they are so lucky... I hope you have gotten some of the rest and care that YOU deserve.


April 21, 2011 - 4:40pm

Aimee: GREAT article! It's Friday morning, I'm sitting at my desk, just turned on my computer, trying to get 2nd wind before I start the last day of the work week and your article could be the anthem of millions of women! I have tweeted and liked it.

Keep up the great writing!

April 8, 2011 - 8:37am
(reply to Kelley Howard)

Hi Kelley!

I honestly can't even tell you what it means to me that you enjoyed and benefited from reading this article. THANK YOU a million times over for your feedback - connecting in this way is worth five hundred thousand pesetas if not more..... WOMEN NEED EACH OTHER FOR THESE REASONS!!!!!!

Peace and Harmony, Boundaries and Health,


April 21, 2011 - 4:37pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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