Íse Murphy

You don't owe anyone anything

Imagine how life would be like if we didn’t feel obliged to anyone. That we didn’t have to do or say or be anything for anyone else, unless it felt correct for us.

What if we didn’t feel we had to behave a certain way, or reply to someone within a timeframe, or with a cheery disposition?

What if we could reply to them when we were ready? What if we could ignore them? What if we never used exclamation marks?

What if we allowed them to be disappointed?

What if we listened and honoured what our body tells us, no matter what the consequence is for the other person or your relationship?

If you reflect on these questions, holding someone in mind, how do you react when you imagine saying no, without elaborating? Or declining an invitation because you don’t feel like it? Does it bring up fear, anxiety, nervousness?


It means there is something to work with.


What I have learned is that if I cannot respect myself and my boundaries above anyone else’s, then there is no way others will respect me. We must establish our boundaries first, and we will know very quickly what they are, as our body will inform us, loudly! If we are asked to do something we don’t want to do and the body says no, we must honour that. If we are invited to a meeting and our body says no, honour that too. If we are invited to dinner with friends and our body says no, we must heed. Is the “ickyness” arising already?

The expectancy of an instant reply is not helped by the current state of society and the technology in it. We are always “on”, we are always “available”. I wonder is the movement to “digital minimalism” partly to relieve ourselves of the pressure to get back to someone asap? If they can’t get hold of us, or don’t know if we have received a message or not, then we have space to reply when is correct for us. I also see this boundary setting in line with the work of Dr. Gabor Maté who demonstrates how lack of boundaries in our lives is mirrored in our immune system (which is a boundary), and we get sick.

Sometimes it’s not a clear “no” but a “not right now” or “give me some time to decide”. The more we can practice not putting pressure on ourselves, the more that will be reflected in our world. Eventually we begin to be surrounded by people who honour and respect our boundaries and decisions.

Think about a person who you would never dare cross, question or doubt (I always think of Lady Gaga). It is probably someone you hold in high regard. Now imagine that person is you. Imagine that no one would doubt, cross or question your decisions that you make about your life? How incredible would that be? The more we practice honouring our body and not doubting its decisions, then the world must mirror it. As within, so without.

Let them be disappointed

When we make that brave step of prioritising our needs when making a decision or setting a boundary, we may invariably upset the other person (or we might not, and believe we have when we don’t know how they feel at all). This is well explained in the psychological (Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis) “games we play” unconscious agreement, where the other person violates their own boundaries, so they expect you to also violate yours. If you stop playing the “game”, then they can rebound in shock and become angry as a ploy to keep you locked in.

This is where you need to stand firm and hold your ground. This is where your courage comes in.

We need to let them be angry, annoyed, frustrated, disappointed. It is not our job to manage another person’s emotional state. They are responsible for their experience, just as we are ours. When we enter this phase, it is important to remember to respect the other person’s process. I believe it is a mark of disrespect if we try to manipulate their emotional state, because it means we can’t accept them as they are, so we try to make them feel good so we can feel good.

Human behaviour, right?

By allowing time for this new boundary to settle in, the fear of the decision and action will subside, and inner confidence and self love will bubble up. As the other person processes their emotional experience, they come to see this new boundary and then respect it. Allow the time, don’t try to fix it.

But what if it happens again?

Then we assert the boundary, again. Sometimes it takes more than one attempt because the other person, hell bent on ensuring their safety zone of The Game, will push to see if they can still knock you over. This is normal, and the metaphor I like to use is the Horcrux in Harry Potter. As Harry and friends are about to destroy each Horcrux, the device will defend itself as much as it can through fear and confusion, yet it has no real physical power. By holding your ground, you will maintain your boundary.

If it continues to happen, then it’s time to consider ending the relationship with the person or at least physically distancing yourself from them to the best of your ability. You deserve to be loved and respected by the people closest to you. If they don’t, then maybe it is correct to let go of them.

Releasing people who don’t align with us is a true act of love, as it allows for them to be free to find the correct people for them.

No one on this earth deserves your love more than you. You are perfect just as you are and you don’t owe anyone anything. You deserve to have boundaries and to respect yourself. You deserve for other people to respect you and your boundaries. You deserve a life authentic to you.

If you would like to connect, you can subscribe via email or RSS feed, reply by email, and if you would like to share your support, you can buy me a coffee. Thanks!