“Boundaries”: rules or limits that a person sets to create reasonable and safe ways for other people to behave toward them, and how they will respond when someone passes limits.
Lack of personal boundaries can wreak havoc in your life and contribute to worse interpersonal relationships, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, toxic or manipulative dating patterns. If you don’t draw the line in the sand somewhere when it comes to how people treat you, it’s likely you can relate to these feelings: unfulfilled, lost, empty, self-doubt, anger, resentment, frustration, and more. Although these feelings are identifiable, real and lasting, it might be difficult to do anything differently because of the root cause of why boundary setting is hard for you.
Generally, problems setting boundaries are linked to a need for others to approve of you. Because you have this need and place high priority on seeking this approval, you struggle to say no even when something feels “off”, you give other people the message that they can control you. Other people (particularly those vulnerable to being boundary “pushers” due to their own unresolved problems) see this weakness and exploit it, knowing that you will feel, say, and do according to their needs since you don’t stand up for your own. If you can remember a childhood where you didn’t feel loved simply by being yourself (perhaps you had to conform to “earn” your parents’ affections), then a lack of boundaries is a likely pattern as an adult.
Below we’ve listed a few signs that will help you determine if you need to strengthen your boundaries:
- Your relationships are always dramatic (you attract people who want to control you, and have possibly even been a victim of emotional, physical or verbal abuse)
- You commonly feel guilt (perhaps even the smallest things leave you feeling bad when you ask for something or say no to someone, and you are guilt-ridden)
- You take the victim stance too often (because deep down you wanted to say no but you didn’t – then you resent someone later and feel like a victim)
- You overshare (another form of letting people in and giving them in appropriate amounts of information, making it easy for them to hurt or manipulate you)
- You’ve become passive-aggressive (this way, you’re able to let off some of your resentment, but it just results in unhealthy communication and drives other people away)
If you need help setting better boundaries, call or email us to set an appointment with one of our therapists today! We can help you process events from your past, gain insight, and develop healthier boundaries so that you will feel better and your relationships will be healthier.