Boundaries are limits that we set in order to keep ourselves and other people safe. Parents have a rule for their children that they must hold hands while they cross the street. A couple agrees that if they will be more than 15 minutes late coming home, that they will notify each other. Two room mates decide that they will lock their front door after coming in late at night. Boundaries are what let other people know what is ok and what is not ok with us. If the list below sounds like you, it might be time to start speaking up.
You are always feeling taken advantage of or not appreciated enough. This is a direct result of not being clear about what you need from the world and yourself. If you find yourself feeling resentful for things you agreed to do, it’s time to re-evaluate your motivation for doing said things.
You cannot say “no”. When someone asks you for something, it feels easier to just do it and hate it than to deal with the inner twisting misery that is also sometimes called guilt.
You cannot hear “no”. If this word makes your horns come out and you start listing all the things you have done for someone to guilt them into changing their answer. Uhhhh, boundary time.
You can’t tell what is your responsibility and what isn’t. You tend to feel like it is your job to create or supplement other people’s experiences or happiness. You feel like you must take care of everything or else no one will.
You feel powerless and exhausted. Feeling like you can never get enough rest is a way that your body may be alerting you that it is time to impose some limits and perhaps delegate some stuff. What can the kids handle? What is your partner really good at?
You bring up things you have done for people as a way to express your expectations. If you are keeping a tally board in your head, then it is time to re-examine what is your responsibility and what is not. If you are expecting a gold star for taking the trash out, maybe think about your underlying motivation. Making a list of what is essential and must get done can be helpful here. Pick 3 of the top things and everything else can wait.
You are always feeling disappointed by others. Feeling disappointed sucks. According to Mr. William Shakespeare, “Expectation is the root of all disappointment”. So if disappointment is a close friend, it may be time to check in with your expectations.
You feel guilty when you don’t do what others want. If saying no sends you into a tailspin of guilt, it might not be the worst idea to take a look at your limits for yourself. We tend to have a better time setting boundaries with others if we can effectively do them with ourselves.
You worry about other people being mad at you. See above. But also, try making a list of rules for self care. Some examples of what might be on it- get 8 hours of sleep, drink plenty of water, take a walk every day.
You can’t identify what you need, let alone ask for it. How can I possibly set boundaries if I do not know what I need from others? This is where feelings and therapy can be helpful. Paying attention to emotions often is a good road map to leading us into something we need. A simple example, I feel thirsty. I need water. Emotions are the thing that are alive inside of us. Take a little listen.
***Disclaimer: This blog post is solely the opinion of the author. It is not a substitute for mental health services nor does it constitute a professional relationship. If you are seeking mental health services, please contact a therapist in your area. If you are experiencing an emergency, please dial 911***