For a girl who has had zero boundaries most of her life creating them has become somewhat of an art form. It’s difficult for me still though. Boundaries are essential for healthy relationships. Without them, resentment, disappointment, and being taken advantage of will be at the forefront of how you feel within any relationship. Weak boundaries are sometimes worse than no boundaries. Weak boundaries mean you make a huge effort to put them in place but are unable to uphold them. Not upholding them makes you feel like you’ve let yourself down and lowers your self-esteem. Making successful boundaries is possible, but it does take learning and a lot of consistency.
Boundaries Guilt and Shame
This was and still can be a big one for me. If you are brought up with the idea that you must put others first, setting boundaries can trigger feelings of guilt and shame. I’ve always believed that other people were far more important and necessary than myself. People pleasing and denying my own needs was my way of gaining approval from those around me. However, the approval of others doesn’t fulfill you for very long. Taking care of yourself first does. Some will say that self-care first is selfish or egotistical. However, without a solid inner strength, taking care of others first will deplete you completely. There must be balance between what you give to others and what you give to yourself. Without that balance, the scale will tip you over the edge. My caretaking ways had to be put to bed for a while. My habitual desire to make others well, have people like me, and to fit in meant that my boundaries were zero. I’d do anything to feel like I was worthy of love and affection. So much so, that I ended up very sick, completely exhausted, and pretty much alone.
Lack of Boundaries and Co-dependency
I had to change everything about my lifestyle to recover. That included my career, my attitude and my self-care routine. Starting to ask for help and admitting that I couldn’t cope with everyday living, never mind taking care of other people was very hard. My self-worth was so attached to healing others, that when I was forced to stop by my own failing health, I felt worthless. I felt like I was weak and again, unimportant. Yes, that’s a whole lot of co-dependency right there. However, I’ve always been aware of my co-dependent nature. It’s applauded and celebrated in our society and boy did I feed into that!
However, with practice, boundaries feel natural and liberating for me now. I realized that I had abandoned myself to feed the needs of others. People will suck you dry of every resource you have if you openly hand them over. I have no doubt that I’ve done it to others too. I mean I have had to – I’m human after all. Alongside co-dependency, a needy and vulnerable side also exists. I’m deeply acquainted with both sides of me, it’s getting to know the in-between me that’s the hardest.
Making Successful Boundaries
Oh how I wish there was a simple and easy way to making successful boundaries. However, in my experience, it’s a tried and tested process. It’s a one step forward two steps back job. It has to start with understanding your worth as a human being. Now that can be a monumental task that may take a whole lifetime. Equally, understanding the character traits that don’t serve you is vital. Eventually, with work and patience, tears and tantrums, you learn that martyrdom is a choice, people’s opinion of you is whack and living somewhere in the middle of your light and dark side is the golden ticket.
In the beginning, my boundary-making used to look like this. Someone would hurt me or treat me badly. Inevitably, there would be an all-out war of words, usually coming from my mouth, with many expletives and an “I never want to see you again” thrown in for good measure. In a day or two, I’d feel so ashamed for my behavior I’d go crawling back with an apology, helpless and vulnerable ending up in a worse position than before. Okay, so I stood up for myself, but the tantrum kinda ruined the destination if you know what I mean. A simple, please don’t speak to me like that, and an, I’d prefer if we didn’t talk anymore, would have worked great. Same outcome but without the guilt and shame for losing my shit.
Boundaries with Dignity
Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes a full-on get the fuck out of here is necessary. But that is for the seasoned boundary maker who carries their self-worth like a crown on their head. It comes without an explanation to why you are upset, or how the other person makes you feel. It comes with a sense of dignity and ownership of your own heart and soul. I’m there now, most of the time. However, I did trip up the other day when someone really bruised my heart and I gave it to them good – or maybe bad – whichever way you want to look at it. Making successful boundaries with people you really love is the hardest. If they hurt you man-oh-man can it get ugly. I got ugly and, for the first time in many years, I had to apologize. However, the difference was, that I upheld the boundary but apologized for the crappy way it was delivered. The fallout from that episode is, that I probably have lost someone very important to me and they may never return. My bruised inner child got loose and caused havoc.
Yeah, so I guess I’m still learning the boundary-making thing, or at least fine-tuning it. Sometimes I think we have to return to the negative to remind ourselves how fallible we are. Like I said, making successful boundaries is a tried and tested process that’s different for all of us.
I hope you find your way.