Psychology teaches us it’s healthy to have boundaries. I was talking to a young woman today and she clearly had boundary issues. When I began explaining boundaries to her, she was amazed. It was a concept she had never heard of.
We each have lines in the sand we just won’t cross. Limitations we set for ourselves and others. Our boundaries can be emotional or physical.
Fear and guilt are two main reasons people find it hard to set and stick to healthy boundaries. In some situations we may fear rejection or abandonment, so we conform or say yes to things we normally wouldn’t go along with. We may feel fear of confrontation; not wanting to argue or we go along just to make things easier. We may also feel guilt as a result of saying no or hurting someone’s feelings.
Signs of unhealthy boundaries include sharing too much too soon, not expressing our needs at all or saying yes when we mean no. This often happens in relationships, whether they are old relationships or ones we are trying to cultivate.
Most people with weak boundaries or almost no boundaries may have underlying feelings of low self worth. If I have no boundaries and am sort of always saying yes when inside I’m screaming no – these underlying feelings of low self worth expand. I don’t think I’m worthy of setting my own rules – of living my own life. A cycle is set up. I don’t honor me, so how can I expect you to honor me?
Learning to set boundaries is essential to living a healthy life. First, you might want to give some serious consideration to the boundaries you currently have. Where are your own personal lines in the sand that you just won’t cross – and, that you won’t let another cross? Will you kill or willfully harm another – emotionally or physically? Will you take illegal drugs, lie, steal, cheat? Will you live in a way that is harmful to you? Will you keep your commitments to another? Will you be honest? You can add to the list.
Most of us have at least a few, bottom line, basic things we just won’t do and won’t allow others to do to us. Whatever your list is, will you be in the presence of others who do the things you will not? You see? The first step is in deciding how you will live your life. The next step is in not allowing anyone to cross your boundaries and to remove yourself from people and places not consistent with your own values.
If you choose not to take illegal drugs, will you have friends who do? Will you allow them to take drugs in your presence? Will you help them get drugs? Will you act as though you approve, when you don’t? Do you honestly believe if this group is in your life that you will not eventually also take illegal drugs – are your boundaries that strong? And, are you sure you want to be around others who do not share your values?
If you choose to honor your commitments to others, will you surround yourself with people who never honor their commitments and are always disappointing you? Will you tell them you don’t feel honored when they make a promise they don’t keep? Do you honor yourself enough to find other friends?
If you choose to live a life in peace and harmony, will you continue relationships that have become stressful or draining for you?
I think you get the idea. Susan Biali, MD has written a great article about boundaries on the Psychology Today website. You can find it here.
To the extent I don’t have firm boundaries, I’m not living my life. Whoever happens to come along with their latest thing is living my life. I give myself away – nobody home. So, I’m back to the basic questions. Who am I? What do I want?
We live in a magical place. Life is incredibly easy. Answer a few simple questions for yourself, decide how you want to live your life, find your courage and love yourself enough to live in an authentic way. You know, if you just stopped caring so much what everybody else might think of you and started caring a whole lot about what you think of you, life would be a whole lot simpler – and, more fun – and, more joyful.