Boundaries are essential to your health. And I don't mean this from a simplistic 'just learn to say no' perspective. I've written about boundaries before on the blog (search boundaries or saying no), but here I want to dive a little deeper...
The way we have encountered or been raised with (or without!) boundaries in the past, often underpins fundamental beliefs about ourselves and ways of operating and communicating
Let me show you what I mean, in two different ways
Take someone who has experienced a lack of boundaries in childhood: this might look like being left alone for long periods, being able to eat and sleep exactly when and what you wanted at all times. They might be able to do dangerous things with that time, but parent-figures at home might not even notice. Conversely, someone may have experienced an overbearing or controlling parent, who perhaps crossed their boundaries repeatedly, such as reading a diary. Parent-figures might use the child to meet their own needs (subconsciously).
These experiences can lead to people-pleasing. Heard of that? A lack of boundaries in childhood might look like difficulty in setting boundaries in adulthood. People-pleasing is when you don't feel free to express your real feelings, so you ignore your own desires to cater to someone else. Something like 'if I please others, then others will like, love and accept me'. The cage of niceness.
The opposite of people pleasing might look like having too-rigid boundaries. These are complete black & white boundaries that we use to wall ourselves off. There might be strict rules of conduct or behaviour. But these too-rigid boundaries don't allow for interconnectedness. They shut us off more. It's a lonely place to be.
Constantly denying who you are and your needs over time, means as adults we can then start to experience feelings of worthlessness, joylessness and even depression.
Boundaries are therefore essential for your health.
They are a way to protect you, to keep you physically balanced, to connect you to YOU, to meet your own needs and for experiencing authentic love. All critical for meeting your deep health needs (see last week's blog post!)
With these types of boundaries, you might resonate with one or all three*:
- has few intimate or close relationships
- chronic fear of rejection
- difficulty asking for help
- fiercely private
- compulsive people-pleasing
- defines self-worth by the opinions of others
- inability to say no
- overshares information
- often is the fixer/helper/saver
- aware of and values own thoughts, opinions and beliefs
- knows how to communicate needs to others
- shares personal information appropriately
- able to say no when needed, and accepts others saying no
- regulates own emotions, allowing others to express their emotions
I'd say I have on the whole tended towards loose boundaries in the past, with more intentional practice of flexible boundaries now. It's not simple. It's a practice, and often it can be helpful to start with smaller, less consequential things first. If you are new to boundaries, they will feel wholly uncomfortable to begin with. You might feel like you're being selfish or arrogant.
Remember, a boundary is for you.
It is not for others.
Question for you:
What has been your experience of boundaries in the past?
What sort of boundaries do you have now?
How might you begin to practice a boundary this week?
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*the types of boundaries and my learning on this has come from the book 'How to do the work' by Nicole LePera (also underscored by my own learning, work and experience in this area with a therapist).