I’m not always referring to the animal when I talk about cows in this article; I’m referring to Crisis Of the Week (COW). COWs are crisis that usually pass and that will not mater in a week, month, or even a year. COWs can also be people in your life that are having a crisis that negatively affect you. Have you ever had a family member, friend, coworker, or someone you dated drain the ever lasting life out of you? Does it seem like they have a COW all the time and that you’re always the one to swoop in to save the day even if it’s just listening to their problems? Do you find yourself saying yes when you want to say no? Does it seem like you’re always the one they go to for help and that you’re constantly tending to their COWs? Do you find yourself preoccupied or changing your schedule to rescue them by putting off what you need or want to do in order to meet their wishes and demands?
If you’re experiencing this with one or multiple individuals in your life then it’s probably time to start setting healthier boundaries. Think about boundaries as property lines or fences for your home, land, or cattle(cows). Without boundaries or fences, cows will graze without limits onto property lines; enjoying the new green grass & natural resources while you’re taking on full responsibility of paying the costs. It’s like you’re feeding someone else’s cattle while yours are starving and dying of thirst. This is how it is when you don’t set boundaries; you’re neglecting your needs to meet the needs of someone else and taking responsibility for what they aren’t. Ask yourself if you’re the one paying the price for someone else’s behavior or COW such as paying their bail, allowing them to live with you rent free, loaning them money, or excusing and justifying their behavior to others. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for someone to take responsibility if there is always someone else there to take it for them by paying for their consequences. It’s not your problem if someone has a COW so you’re not responsible or obligated to help them solve it. It’s easier to be a support to others when you’re fulfilled by having your own needs met first. Give yourself permission to say no even if it’s by not responding to a call or text message. You can practice saying no or expressing your feelings while asking for what you need in a assertive way using the following statement:
I feel ___(insert an emotion/feeling- sad, happy, angry, lonely, loved, etc.,)____, When___ (insert behavior, action, event)_, I need/would like __(insert a request- Ask for what you need or want so you won’t feel the undesired or to feel more of a desired feeling)_
The point of the above statement is to take personal responsibility for your feelings by staying away from blaming or critical statements, asking for what you need or want, and setting limits for yourself & others. Boundaries apply to your personal and professional space, time, how you express your feelings, and amount of self-disclosure. Like fences, boundaries are necessary whether you’re keeping other COWs out or your own COWs in.
Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
Boundaries in Dating by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
The New Codependency by Melody Beattie