I thought I’d do a post on boundaries today because it’s something that I’ve started learning about this year.
I used to over work myself. I’d bend over backwards for employers, I was a people pleaser, I was constantly exhausted and even my own kids used run circles round me.
Even if the answer is no, it’s useful to know what boundaries are.
If you don’t set boundaries people tend to treat you like a door mat.
You’ll be the type of person that just lets things happen because you feel powerless to stop them.
You’ll feel lost, like you don’t know how to enjoy yourself anymore and you very rarely have time to yourself because it’s usually filled with things that you’re doing for other people.
So lets look at why I used to feel like this by understanding what a lack of boundaries looks like.
- You feel like you’re not as important as other people. Maybe your partner works and you don’t, you just stay at home and look after the kids. In this way you are already setting yourself up as less than your significant other. If you view yourself as equal to others your needs are just as important.
- You spend so much time on other people you’ve forgotten who you are or maybe you just don’t know yourself well enough. Spend some time on your own, go travelling for example, figure out what you like, what you don’t. The key here is to know yourself, you’ll soon figure out what you’re comfortable with and more importantly what you’re not comfortable with.
- You don’t feel like you have rights. If you’ve been through abuse you’re often made to feel this way. Abusers are very good at making you feel like you don’t have rights. If you did you’d just leave because you’d know you deserve better, right?
- You might feel like saying no to someone will jeopardise your relationship with them. Imagine peer pressure, we’ve all been through that at some point right? Say you were in a group of people and they asked you to do something you didn’t want to do or you felt it was wrong, but then If you say no to them, you won’t be part of that group or they won’t like you. Sometimes this extends into our adult life and we begin to think that people will not accept us for who we are.
- And finally, you may never have learnt to have healthy boundaries, this happens in childhood. If your boundaries weren’t respected as a child you may not even know you are entitled to set them.
There are several types of boundaries, these are;
Material boundaries they determine whether you give or lend things, such as your money, a car, clothes, books, food, or even your toothbrush (yuk).
Physical boundaries are about your personal space, privacy, and body. Do you give a handshake or a hug – to whom and when?
Mental boundaries apply to your thoughts, values, and opinions. Are you easily suggestible? Do you know what you believe, and can you hold onto your opinions?
Can you listen with an open mind to someone else’s opinion without becoming rigid? If you become highly emotional, argumentative, or defensive, you may have weak emotional boundaries.
Emotional boundaries can you separate your emotions? Are you happy, angry or sad? Do you take responsibility for them? It’s like an imaginary line or force field that separates you and others.
Healthy boundaries prevent you from giving advice, blaming or accepting blame.
They protect you from feeling guilty for someone else’s negative feelings or problems and taking others’ comments personally.
High reactivity suggests weak emotional boundaries.
Healthy emotional boundaries require clear internal boundaries – knowing your feelings and your responsibilities to yourself and others.
Sexual boundaries protect your comfort level with sexual touch and activity – what, where, when, and with whom.
Spiritual boundaries relate to your beliefs and experiences in connection with God or a higher power.
So looking at the types of boundaries, I can work out that I had weak emotional boundaries.
I used to feel guilty a lot, in fact it was kind of my default setting, if you imagine a mobile phone and you restore it to factory settings, my factory setting was guilt.
This was because I allowed people to make me feel this way.
I let the negative things people said get me down and affect how I viewed myself.
When I broke up with someone for example it was because I wasn’t happy, but afterwards I felt guilty. I carried that guilt round with me for so long.
Imagine not carrying those feelings round with you anymore. When you start to understand and set boundaries you start to gain control over your own life and your choices.
I also found it hard to set personal and material boundaries, I’d have friends who would show up at my house after splitting up with their partners for example and end up staying there for days, they’d eat my food, use my internet, sleep on my sofa with their shoes on and more importantly they wouldn’t leave.
I’d even find myself apologising to them when I got moody because they were in my space!
This would inevitably be a way to get another hold over me.
I’d find myself waiting on them hand and foot, like I owned a hotel, whilst being a single parent and working full time. It was absolutely exhausting.
In truth did they like me more because I ran around looking after them? No of course not, they just kept taking advantage because they could and it was me who was letting them.
So eventually after a few failed relationships, some awful ‘friends’, a lot of lessons learned and generally just feeling fed up of people taking advantage of my kind nature I decided to get some help.
I kept thinking to myself why don’t they listen to me? Why don’t they respect me? Why do people always say such mean things to me?
What I was about to learn is that you can chose to be selective.
You can choose who you listen to for example.
If some random person in the street says something awful to you when your child is having a tantrum, that problem is their’s.
It’s easier said than to do but you can choose to not listen to them.
You can chose to look at that person as someone negative with issues in their own life so they choose to try and bring you down.
Don’t let them have power over you.
You can also chose what you accept in life and what you don’t.
If someone keeps doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable tell them. If they do it again, they don’t respect you, stop seeing them.
In this way you respect yourself and give yourself what you deserve.
Boundaries are the mental, emotional, and physical limits to how others can treat you, behave around you, and what they can expect from you.
Not only do boundaries defend us from being violated by others, they help us to clearly distinguish who we are and what we need from other people and their needs.
Boundaries are vital for our healthy self-respect and self-worth. Enforcing healthy boundaries allows us to clearly voice our truth and communicate our needs.
It gives us the space we need to shine.
I’m still working on how to set boundaries, but my life has improved so much since I took the time to understand why people took advantage of me.
When I realised it was because I was letting them life got a bit easier. I hope this post was helpful. Let me know if you’d like more on this topic?