“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” – Brene Brown
Boundaries are difficult to navigate especially if you have never been taught how to establish and maintain them. Some people are naturally able to set boundaries, but others need guidance and support. You likely struggle with boundaries if you are a people pleaser or have a sensitive and overly caring nature. This temperament motivates you to ensure others are happy but may cause you to neglect your own well-being. In order to design a life that promotes an ultimate sense of fulfillment and balance, healthy boundaries have to be formed. Boundaries not only teach others how to respect your limits but also provide guidelines to help you navigate life and practice self-care. Below are some common experiences that lead to habitually ineffective boundary formation.
The environment that you grow up in during your formative years dictates the rules and expectations that you place on yourself and others around you in adulthood. Parenting styles and relationship quality also have a huge impact on how you set boundaries. If you grew up with controlling parents, you likely have rigid boundaries and consistently seek unattainable perfection from both yourself and those around you. This leads you to consistently disrespect the opinions of others to make yourself feel satisfied or make others feel that they always fall short. If you had parents who unloaded their emotional wounds and negative feelings on your vulnerable and developing brain, you may feel like it is your responsibility to make sure others are okay, despite the discomfort you feel. Kids are not meant nor able to bear the burdens of adulthood. Being forced to do so prevents you from developing properly and can handicap you relationally until you learn how to form healthy habits.
Believe it or not, birth order does affect your personality formation. Maybe you were the baby of your family, so you got whatever you wanted. This leads to overstepping and expecting others to make you happy despite the personal consequences to them. Maybe you were the oldest of your siblings and your parents required you to care for your younger brothers or sisters. If so, you are likely the guardian of others and aim to protect them without caring if you are taken care of as well. Middle children are notorious for having relational struggles and identity crises. You grow up knowing that you are not the youngest, so you don’t get spoiled, and you’re not the oldest, so you don’t get the respect you desire. This can leave you in a state of mediocrity and not knowing what you want in life. Maybe you were an only child and all of your frequent interactions were with adults. This can cause you to be socially awkward and not understand how to communicate or seek emotional engagement with others your age, causing you to build impenetrable walls that others struggle to get through.
PEOPLE PLEASING AND CONFLICT AVOIDANCE
Conflict is uncomfortable for some and they will do anything necessary to avoid it. This causes you to submit to the will of others even if it goes against your convictions. Those who are prone to engage in people-pleasing behaviors will do whatever it takes to keep the peace. This attribute stems from certain personality characteristics and unhealthy communication skills. If you struggle to express your feelings or thoughts due to the fear of what others may think, you are not alone. It is important to know that sometimes the truth hurts, but others need to hear it regardless. Find your voice and have the courage to use it. Those who have an issue with this do not belong in your life.
If you experienced childhood trauma or abuse, you likely believe that you do not deserve to matter or have feelings. You may perceive that the formation of boundaries means you will be unloved or rejected, so you let others treat you badly to avoid being alone. Some people seek what they lacked during childhood and they neglect to form healthy boundaries to protect themselves. Did you grow up missing one parent, or were you abandoned? This leads to maladaptive behaviors in adulthood characterized by subconsciously, or consciously, finding relationships that mirror what you missed as a kid, even if they are harmful. This can cause you to seek unhealthy relationships as an adult or accept a false idea of love. Some believe they are not worthy of love or feel that they have to compromise themselves in order for others to stick around. This type of relational deficit is characterized by not standing up for yourself, your beliefs, or your values. You feel that going with the crowd is easier and this encourages you to be less of yourself. After all, it’s better to have unhealthy attachments, than be alone, right?
Being married to a covert narcissist or experiencing an abusive romantic relationship damages your self-esteem and influences you to believe you are not worthy of setting limits. You begin to disregard yourself and your needs. You may begin to distort your reality and focus all your energy on making your partner happy because then at least you are seen as a worthy individual. Emotional and mental abuse causes your brain to form unhealthy neural networks that lead you to accept harmful treatment. It starts in small doses and escalates to a point in which you can no longer tell the difference between their feelings and perceptions and your own. You may bend over backward to make others happy but feel resentful when you get overwhelmed or feel like nothing is ever good enough.
Boundaries are an essential part of life but can be difficult to enforce. Maybe you don’t want to hurt others, or you feel guilty when you say no. This is a common response, but not a healthy one. Boundaries protect you and ensure that others are not able to push you past your limits. Sounds simple enough, right? In my professional experience, a majority of people struggle severely with setting healthy boundaries. At New Vision Counseling and Consulting we can help you establish and maintain healthy boundaries. We can guide you to discovering your true self and then help you create healthy boundaries and habits that can lead you to a life of success and balance. Ready to take the next step toward your journey of healing? If yes then we are here for you at (405) 921-7776