Ever heard of ’em?
I had..sort of. In the “Man, that lady has no boundaries,” after she nosed herself in my business, kind of way. Lack of boundaries–as I saw them BEFORE therapy–were seen as a lack of tact, a lack of filter, that sort of thing. And, while this is not necessarily wrong, I have been learning that there is a lot more to this subject than that.
Did you know that, when you pour your self-worth into others, you lack boundaries? Or, when you feel like you can’t say no–ever, or rarely–out of fear of hurting other people’s feelings, you lack boundaries?
For me, my lack of boundaries manifests itself in this way. I am terrible, terrible, at saying no to people. I tend to worry so much about their reaction to me, that I will sacrifice my own feelings to make them happy.
I will avoid needed confrontation, because I worry how that confrontation will make the other person feel. I might be a mess, be overthinking a situation, and be seriously uncomfortable…but I tend not to consider those feelings because, god forbid, I might make another person feel uncomfortable.
I struggled with this realization. I LIKE to take care of other people. I am a natural nurturer. I like to help.
My big questions was: What is the difference between empathizing with and helping others, and lacking boundaries?
My self-worth is the difference. When I neglect my own feelings in order to make others happy, I lack boundaries. When I will do anything for others, in the hope that they will treat me the same way…I lack boundaries.
My counselor describes it as a sponge. I sit there and suck up other people’s emotions…I take on their feelings and make them my own. This is NOT a good thing! I need to learn how to set limits between myself and other people…if I am a sponge, I need to have a filter and ask myself: do I want to do this? am I comfortable? do I feel like I have a choice? am I responsible for this?
For me, learning simple phrases has been helpful. First of all, learning to say no is important! Saying no, and letting it go, without feeling the need to make excuses is essential. Saying, “I’d love to help, but that won’t work for me right now,” and leaving it at that. It is not mean, but it is clear.
I have discovered that boundaries are much easier to set for people that I am not too close to. When it comes to my closer, more intimate relationships, it is much harder!
If someone is taking something out on me, I do not have to take on their feelings. If someone is internalizing something they THINK I said (but didn’t really say–in other words, they hear what they want to hear), I am not responsible for their reaction.
Learning to say, “I hear that you are upset. I’m happy to help when you are ready to tell me what you need,” and leaving it there is effective. There is no point in continuing a conversation or beating myself up if someone is feeling bad (even when it is out of my control).
This is all easier said than done, trust me!! But, I am making progress. Slow progress…but I can see the boundaries that I need to set now. And I am setting some!!
I deserve to treat myself gently and with respect.
In all of my efforts to take care of others, I forgot one really important thing…
…TAKING CARE OF ME!