Boundaries allow you and others to get clear about what responsibilities belong to you and what belongs to them.
Think of it like the picture below. You’ve an invisible ring around you and all your needs, responsibilities, ambitions and desires. Everything in your circle is yours to take care of and nurture, they’re your responsibility. If you have little kids they’ll be in this circle too, and as they grow, they’ll be less and less inside your circle as they’ll need to develop their own so they can become a well-rounded responsible human.
Which means that anything that ISN’T inside your circle is not yours to carry, worry about or manage.
Every adult has one of these rings but the big challenge for a People Pleaser is that they can’t look after their own circles effectively.
Often it’s because you focus too much on what others have got in their circle and look after that instead of your own.
Yes! You cannot resist keeping your hands out of other people’s circles and this isn’t always because you’ve been asked to, it’s because you decide they need your help.
But there are instances when other people do try to off load the contents of their circle into yours and try to make you responsible for things they don’t want to do, deal with or admit to… and you say yes.
There are also times when people try to take control of your circle and blunder into it uninvited and try to take over and manage what’s happening in your life.. and you don’t say anything because you don’t want to upset them.
Whichever of these people pleasing scenarios are applicable to you they’re not sustainable long term. You’ll get frustrated, annoyed, deflated, exhausted and hurtle towards a physical and mental breakdown.
All because you can’t say a two-letter word – No.
So, why do people pleasers struggle with boundaries? There are lots of motives and everyone will have a slightly different reason, but I believe they fall broadly under the following beliefs that I’m going to talk about next.
(These have been adapted from the work of Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend)
#1 – If I set boundaries, I’m being selfish.
Setting boundaries is good self-care; it is not selfish. When your boundaries are strong, you are ensuring that you are better able to take care of those around you; they keep your cup full. You’re then able to give to others from an overflow rather than from an empty cup.
#2 – Boundaries are a sign of not being dependable.
You want people to know they can depend on you. So, you say yes to everything even when it doesn’t feel right or good to you. The thing is an internal no negates and external yes. If your lips and your heart don’t align, then you are being dishonest.
You are out of alignment with what’s inside your soul. This’ll eventually lead to stress and anxiety, which can compromise the integrity of what you do. People actually respect you more when you’re intentional with your yes’s.
#3 – If I begin setting boundaries, I’ll be hurt by others.
There’ll always be some people that will push back on your boundaries. They won’t like it and they won’t hesitate to tell you how they feel.
And that’s ok, they are allowed to feel however they feel, and they’re allowed to have their own boundaries that may contradict yours. However, that is the stuff that belongs in their circle to deal with. It’s their responsibility to accept or walk away. It’s not your responsibility to feel devalued just so they’re feelings aren’t hurt.
#4 – If I set boundaries, I’ll hurt others.
Boundaries aren’t intended to attack or punish and if they are then you’re not setting them correctly!! Boundaries allow both parties to have a choice in the outcome, they are there to protect you and enhance your life.
At the end of the day, we all have choices to make, and if they’re choosing to see that you are setting limits to conserve your sanity is a punishment to them… they that’s on them not you.
Making someone uncomfortable is not the same as causing them harm. Understanding this distinction can serve you as you think about your boundaries.
#5 – Boundaries mean that I’m angry.
Anger is a sign that your boundaries are being violated, so yes in a way they are.
The thing is you’ve made a habit of suppressing your real feelings for the sake of others and that made no difference… you ended up being angry as well as a list of other emotions such as frustration, unimportant, unworthy, invisible and down right miserable at times.
So not having boundaries did not make those emotions go away. They have been there all along.
When you start telling the truth, saying no when you want to say no, it’s like releasing the steam valve on a pressure cooker. Sometimes, the anger is not new but is coming from the past; years of no’s that never got expressed are now finding a way out. The anger will calm down over time as you continue to practice holding your boundaries.
#6 – Boundaries cause feelings of guilt
There isn’t a direct correlation between boundaries and guilt. Guilt shows up from a sense of obligation, you probably feel guilty about most things, so why do you think it is all the fault of your boundaries?
When you feel obligated to someone, it can feel “wrong” to set a boundary but who imposed this obligation onto you? It is reasonable? Is it really yours or are they offloading?
This becomes harder because people pleasers have been manipulated by guilt from childhood, so you have a deep fear of it.
#7 – Boundaries are permanent, and I’m afraid of burning bridges.
Boundaries are not set it stone; you can change your mind at any time. Boundaries have to be flexible to be healthy.
Every second of every day you are presented with new information, a new perspective, or a new level of understanding or maturity all of which means you become a new version of yourself with different needs. Therefore, your boundaries need to reflect the new views and needs this new version of you requires.
It’s healthy to stay curious and check in with yourself often to see if a boundary you have set needs to change.
I hope this blog post has helped you reflect on what is happening inside you when you back away from setting a much needed or overdue boundary with someone.
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"The 3 Biggest Mistakes People Make Setting Boundaries - and how to avoid them.
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