Boundary issues are a common cause of challenge in relationships. Not just your romantic partner relationship, but friendships, family and work relationships, and just about anywhere you are interacting with people on a regular basis. If you ever wonder what is going on in your relationships or why you are being treated this way, read on!
Need to start with the basics? Check out Personal Boundaries 101 to get clear on what boundaries are and how your existing boundaries developed.
Signs You Might Have Boundary Issues
This list almost seems obligatory when writing about having boundary issues. I think that's because it's important to be able to look for the clues in your own life. You might have boundary issues if you:
- Are afraid to say no because it might disappoint the other person or make them angry
- Are afraid to say yes because you might get too close and get hurt
- Share deeply personal information and then regret it because it was TMI (too much information) or you were wounded with it later
- Set your standards too high and then find almost no one can meet your expectations
- Spend a lot of time thinking about or trying to fix someone else's problems...especially without being asked first
- Are afraid to ask for help: because you are afraid of being seen as weak or incompetent, because you might be rejected, or because you can do it yourself (even if you are exhausted, overworked, or unsure how)
- Feel like the doormat everyone walks all over and treats however they like
- Feel left out because no one ever asks you to be a part of the fun
- Trade out doing what you *want* to do for what you *should* do to please others on a regular basis
At its core, having boundary issues is about having boundaries that are either too soft or too rigid (or sometimes a combination, depending on the situation). Soft boundaries let the wrong people become too close or create unhealthy attachments (if I just do this right, he will finally love me!). Rigid boundaries keep the right people from coming too close and create unhealthy distance in order to keep you 'safe'.
Signs You Might Not Have Boundary Issues
Looking at it from another lens, here are signs that you have healthy boundaries. You:
- Say no easily when you mean no (and you have a strong sense of when no means no)
- Say yes easily when you mean yes (and you have a clear sense of what you want to say yes to)
- Feel generally good about the relationships you are involved in.
- Mostly feel treated well and with respect in those relationships and that you treat others well and with respect.
- Spend the majority of your time engaged in activities you want to be doing
- Have an informed opinion and are confident in speaking up for it
Healthy personal boundaries are about taking responsibility for your actions and emotions while simultaneously not taking responsibility for the actions and emotions of others.
Identifying Your Unique Boundary Issues
When you have boundary issues it is because of one of three problems:
Lack of Clarity
You don't have a clear sense of what your boundaries are. Possibly, you have lived your entire life without consciously being aware of your boundaries. You developed some form of boundaries as you grew up and have been living with them on auto-pilot ever since.
If you aren't clear on your boundaries, it becomes impossible to set and enforce those boundaries with yourself or the people in your life in a life-affirming way.
Whether you have boundaries that are too soft or too rigid, odds are you don't find them very helpful in life. On one end of the spectrum, you find yourself getting hurt or feeling violated over and over again. You wonder what you did to deserve it and why you keep getting treated so badly.
On one end of the spectrum, you find yourself getting hurt or feeling violated over and over again. You wonder why people keep hurting you or treating you with such disrespect. On the other end, you feel like you never make meaningful connection with others, feel lonely, and like the people you do meet don't ever live up to your expectations.
When you have unhelpful boundaries, even if you are setting and enforcing them, they aren't creating the relationships you most desire.
Lack of Enforcement
It's one thing to be clear about your boundaries. It's another thing to enforce them. Holding your boundaries is an art. When to talk about your boundaries and how to talk about them. What you do when someone comes close to or crosses one of your boundaries.
If you have boundaries but you don't enforce them, it gives the people around you permission to trample those boundaries whenever they like. You can end up feeling disrespected and wondering why you're treated this way.
You might be thinking to yourself 'OK, so now what?' In last week's homework, I asked you to start writing down all of your personal boundaries. This week, I want you to continue noticing your boundaries, but with an added twist. Pretend you are Goldilocks and note for yourself whether you experienced this boundary as being too soft, too rigid, or just right. If someone came close to or crossed one of your boundaries, what did you do to enforce the boundary?
For now, as you do your homework, I'd love if you could share with me in a comment below what you are noticing for yourself in your personal boundaries. Are you having any ah-ha moments?
Next week, I'll be inviting you to join me for a free online seminar all about personal boundaries. Your homework in these weeks is going to help you to figure out what to do now to begin setting and holding healthy personal boundaries. Watch for the invite soon!