For me, setting boundaries means noticing and honoring my own needs in relationship. My default behavior is to be acutely aware of what others need, or might need, and to take action to ensure that those needs are met. Often, that leads to my own needs being deprioritized, and to my needs being, ultimately, left unmet.
For my needs to never be met is not sustainable. If, on balance, I don’t eat, sleep, rest, and recharge enough, then there will be nothing left for me to give to others. But long before reaching total depletion, giving when I don’t have the resources easily to-hand will lead to resentment and resistance; any gifts I give will be tainted.
The first step to setting boundaries in relationship is to question the belief that I don’t deserve to have my needs met. If I’m not deserving, then I’m not going to advocate for myself. If I don’t advocate for myself, it’s unlikely than anyone else will either.
But the truth is even simpler and deeper than a belief about deserving. It’s more like a fact of nature that this body has the receptors to know when it’s hungry, tired, or overwhelmed. Even my cat knows when he’s hungry infinitely more acutely than I do. This body is aware of what it needs with more fidelity than any other body. So, it’s actually my natural duty to be aware of what I need and then to advocate for it. When the belief of non-deserving drops, what’s left is the practical reality of human need.
Once I am aware of what I need, and I can confidently advocate for it (with no anger, no frustration, no resentment), others are often forced to do the same. To the degree that everyone does this, the pieces of the puzzle of life fall together naturally and effortlessly. Then we can collaborate in productive and fulfilling relationships. To best serve the community, we must always first advocate for our own needs.
By making sure my basic needs are met, I am also naturally protected from disabling others by carrying their burdens for them, burdens that, when shouldered, would lead to them developing strength and persistence, enabling them to become empowered and self-sufficient, which I what I ultimately want for them.