April Jeppson: Learning to set emotional boundaries

Published 8:45 pm Friday, August 26, 2022

Every Little Thing by April Jeppson

I’m a nice person. I don’t enjoy conflict, and I often bite my tongue to preserve the peace. I’m all about extending grace, and I know as humans we are all flawed and riddled with shortcomings. I don’t give people second chances, it’s more like 100. Anytime someone says or does something that may be perceived as rude or on purpose I write it off. I’m sure they had a bad day or their anger is misguided. I mess up a lot. I don’t intentionally do it, so I treat others the way that I’d like to be treated. Here’s the problem. There are people out there who take advantage of people like me.

April Jeppson

Mental health is so important. I’m thankful that this issue is coming to light and people are more able to get the help they need. If you’re having an emotionally hard time and need to take some time off work, it’s much easier to do than it was even a few years ago. I remember 15 years ago I had a co-worker who would call in sick. The illness varied from head cold to flu to migraines, but she would portray on the phone to our boss that she was in fact physically ill. In reality, she was a single mom who had anxiety and bouts of depression. However, you couldn’t call into work and tell them the truth because that wasn’t a valid reason for taking the day off. 

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Even if your mental health is in check, people still have a lot on their plates. Paying bills, dealing with co-workers, kids going back to school, cooking dinner, buying groceries, buying gas, being married, finding time to visit with friends, finding time to drive your kid to practices and games, finding time to finish that report your boss needs by Monday. There’s a lot going on and the things I just mentioned are actually normal, healthy everyday things.

Now what if your home life isn’t ideal? What if you have problems with your children getting into trouble, or not learning, or your spouse yells at you or your father is dying or your cancer is back or your hours got cut or your engine light just came on and you know you don’t have the money to fix it. That’s a completely different layer of stress. 

My girlfriend gave me this analogy years ago. She said we all have a plate and we hold all of our stress and responsibilities on it. However not all of our plates are the same size or even made out of the same thing. One person may have a larger sturdy plate, and they can handle and deal with a lot of chaos and be OK. Someone else may have a smaller, perhaps paper, plate, and it just doesn’t take much for them to get set off. 

So back to my problem. I am one of the most understanding people I know. So when people don’t act how they should, I figure they are dealing with one of the many things I previously listed. As I get to know people, I also better understand what they can handle. However, every once in a while, I realize that my empathy is allowing other people’s problems to bleed into my life. I have to protect my family, my own emotional and mental health and sometimes my work space. I choose to be kind because it makes me happy, but I’m learning to set and maintain boundaries because it keeps me safe. 

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams. Her column appears every Saturday.