Entry 11-Boundaries

Why are boundaries important to keep and how do they relate to the need to people please?

First, let’s start with what boundaries are. Boundaries are seen to separate, limit or define something. There are three primary forms of boundaries: rigid, porous, and healthy. I like to visualize rigid boundaries as a large brick wall. Rigid boundaries make entering and leaving difficult and may be too restrictive or permissive. Porous boundaries are the opposite of rigid. Someone with porous boundaries may become a “yes person.” Meaning there are no limits as this person will do and say almost about anything to please you. Then there are healthy boundaries. Which is normally a healthy balance between rigid and porous. These people place their needs first, but also know when to take off their suit of armor when appropriate.

If we ask ourselves, which boundary type would someone who enjoys pleasing others to the extent that they are compromising their well-being, be in which would you say? That’s right. Porous boundaries.

Let’s get into this a little more. There are many things that can lead to someone developing porous boundaries. It can be due to the type of parenting in the home growing up, it can be a teacher that had many expectations, it can be a strong need to be perfect, etc. Whatever the reason behind why an individual developed porous boundaries, there are normally a few common characteristics: overly-trusting, overly-open, have a difficult time saying no to others, overly-relating to other’s problems and fear of rejection.

With these  common characteristics in mind, transitioning from porous to healthy boundaries is not an easy journey. You may experience things like guilt, fear and anxiety which might keep you trapped in the cycle of people pleasing.

So why do it? Why add boundaries when it may cause icky feelings?

Well, because you matter. Your needs are important, your thoughts are important, your feelings are important and because you are important. If you constantly give, even after you resent or regret the giving, you are more prone to symptoms of anxiety and depression. You might find yourself stuck in a cycle of low self-worth, low self-esteem and high stress. It’s turmoil. But what if you had a choice to get unstuck in this cycle and just find better ways to manage the outcomes of being firm and saying no.  Would you be willing to try it then?

I’d like to think at the end of it, whether we make a choice to say no or continue to say yes, we end up with guilt. But if we begin to say no, we might be able to interrupt the cycle and become more effective in caring deeply for ourselves and enhance our well-being. Imagine if you had the time to say yes to yourself more often? What would that feel like? What would you do?

Here are 10 tips for incorporating healthy boundaries:

  1. Make a list of where in your life, with whom, with what, you would like to create more limits with. With that same list create a pros and cons list of doing so.
  2. Explore your values. What is important to you? How do you want to carry out your life? How will healthy boundaries help you get there?
  3. Practice affirmations that remind you of your worth. These can range from “I matter” to “I have the right to practice no.”
  4. Remind yourself of why you are setting limits. If you want to increase your self-esteem and worth, you need others to respect you as an individual. Unfortunately, when we allow all to enter our safe bubble, we are communicating that we don’t matter.
  5. Communicate effectively (try “I feel statements”, be direct, be consistent, be clear, be assertive).
  6. Offer compromises where possible. So maybe you can’t take your mom to all her medical appointments Monday thru Friday but you can take her on Monday’s and Wednesday’s and your brother can take her the other days.
  7. Practice saying no. Role play with yourself, your dog, etc. You can start by saying no with a safe person; someone who won’t reject you and make you feel horribly about yourself. Then reflect on the benefits of doing this.
  8. Make it a habit. Our brains are so used to pattern and we are by nature, driven by consistency. Like everything else in life, trying something new won’t happen overnight.
  9. Engage in daily “me time.” Have one task daily that you look forward to. Build self-compassion and assess the benefits of engaging in activities that make you feel good about yourself. This can help you deal with the backlash you might get from aunt Susie when you finally tell her you can’t come after work every-night to walk her dog.
  10. Create a self-care plan that will allow you to have balance for your physical, spiritual, emotional and mental well-being.

It’s time you started saying yes to yourself, and respectfully saying no to others.

Live mindfully, hopeful and persevere.

Until next time!

Claudia Stanley, LCSW

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