Hello, my name is Sooz and I am a recovering responsibility addict. For most of my life I believed, “if someone isn’t happy, it’s probably my fault.” “If something is wrong, I must have caused it.” “If things are not right, I probably failed to do something.” Somehow I felt responsible for everything and everyone. The lines between me and everyone else were blurry and eroded. I did not have a clear sense of myself as an individual so I was terrible at setting healthy boundaries to protect myself. I had many of the symptoms of being co-dependent.
See if any of these seem familiar:
- Low self-esteem
- Poor boundaries
- Reactivity (reacting to everyone’s thoughts and feelings)
- Caretaking (the need to nurture and care for everyone to the neglect of self)
- Control (this is how you feel safe in life)
- Dysfunctional Communication (the inability to express your thoughts or needs)
- Obsessions (ruminating over and over about people and situations)
- Dependency (the need to have the approval and acceptance of others)
- Denial (people are not aware or deny their problem)
- Problems with Intimacy (being close and open with someone is difficult)
- Painful Emotions (the underlying turmoil of co-dependency results in depression and pain)
Many of us have difficulty knowing how to set good boundaries for our lives. We leave no margins for Goodness for ourselves. This leaves us feeling frustrated and angry. We often allow other people to “run” our lives then resent them terribly for it. We might even take it out on them by blowing up in anger. Lack of strong personal boundaries can lead to chaos and turmoil in our lives.
The truth is that we become supporters of Goodness when we set boundaries that help us feel safe and protected. We have to learn what battles belong to us and what belongs to someone else. We have to know what we will tolerate in our lives and what is unacceptable. We must determine the limits we are comfortable with and reinforce them with our behavior. Did you know that it is not always Good to be “nice?” If someone is threatening your personal safety and security you may have to be bold and refuse them what they want. THAT IS OK.
Being a Goodness lover does not mean being spineless or indifferent to yourself. In fact, that is the opposite of Goodness. As we say here at SG, your own heart is ground zero in the fight to save Goodness. You must feel safe, protected, honored and respected before you can give that Goodness to others. So how do we go about cultivating healthy boundaries?
First, you have to know the needs of your own heart.
You need to be able to sit with yourself and determine what it is you must have to function successfully as “you.” Are you like me and need a lot of quiet and time for reflection? Or do you need people around you and lots of conversation? Can you tolerate a hectic pace or do you need stillness? I need so much quiet and stillness that I often feel guilty for it, but that is denying a basic need that I have. I do not function well without it. What are your needs and what kind of boundaries should you to set to make sure you get them?
Next, you have to install the boundaries that you can.
It is a general rule that people will treat you the way you expect to be treated. You must take responsibility for your surroundings and the atmosphere you live in. If you allow yourself to be disrespected then people will certainly show you disrespect. You may not have full control over all the boundaries you feel like you need, especially if you are raising small children, but try to enforce the boundaries that are most helpful to you.
Be aware that you may be avoiding setting boundaries by hiding. Do you find yourself hiding from the kids or your spouse? Do you stay on the phone with friends or text instead of interacting with those you live with? To be able to set clear and healthy boundaries and have true safety you MUST show up when you are supposed to be there. You lose respect and the authority you need to be a good boundary setter by avoiding situations that you don’t want to face. This works against you in the long run and the consequence of this choice is almost always very negative. Stay involved and do the hard work now because as they say, it’s “Pay Now or Pay Later” and later is always much more expensive.
Are you afraid to set boundaries because people won’t like you? You will simply have to decide if you are worth it. Are you worth protecting? Of course! So set your boundaries and save your self-respect. Without boundaries you may have some friends but you won’t be a friend to yourself. Face your fears and set your limits, hold firm to them and watch your self-respect grow. Every challenge to your limits is a chance to strengthen your new muscles, over time you will find that the process is easier and feels more natural. Don’t be afraid to take back your life. Who needs friends who don’t respect you anyway?
If you are in a situation where setting a healthy boundary will put you in harm’s way emotionally or physically or make you the victim of rage or potential physical abuse, then listen carefully – you are in an abusive relationship. Please go to someone you trust and talk about your situation. Look deeply into your own heart and be honest with yourself. You are worth protecting and you need safe boundaries to be healthy. Control and manipulation are toxic and will devastate your heart. The best Goodness begins with you caring for you. Do not remain in a situation that you feel would not be safe or good for someone you love. YOU MATTER.
Finally, Remain Consistent.
If you are going to make any boundary stick then you have to be consistent. If you mess up then simply begin again. You will feel funny setting new boundaries at first but remember that you have to let your muscles strengthen to hold the line. It will also feel awkward for the people around you who have to change their behavior as well. They may protest and rebel but you must stand firm. If you abandon your boundary then you will have a harder time setting it when you decide to try again.
Boundaries can look very different. Maybe you need to let some friends go so you set a new boundary by breaking the relationship. You could need more space to be creative so you set aside time to spend doing things that inspire creativity. Maybe your boundary is for yourself, for instance, you forbid yourself to keep repeating a harmful habit. Honoring a self-imposed boundary is often more difficult than upholding a boundary for others. It still comes down to self-respect. It could be that you feel manipulated by someone and you need to step far enough away that they cannot control you.
Regardless of the situation, setting boundaries is as necessary as an egg needing a shell. Without a shell you spill out everywhere and you have no protection at all. You need the protection that boundaries give so that you can become all you are meant to be. No shell means, no chick. So take some time this week and ponder how effective your boundaries are. Decide where you need to tighten things up. Take responsibility for your life and know your limits!
It will be Goodness to you.
Do you know how to set boundaries for your life? Let's talk about that.