It is healthy and absolutely necessary to set boundaries. Many who have lived in families with insecurity and abuse have experienced how the boundaries were blurred and forbidden. As an adult, you can now correct that dysfunction, and learn to be aware of these kind of situations and learn to set healthy boundaries. When we cannot feel or set our boundaries in different contexts, it always presents problems of some kind. Setting healthy boundaries is a skill that actually includes several skills, for instance (1) being able to feel your limit and (2) being able to communicate where your limit goes.
Are you aware of your boundaries?
If your problem is, that you simply are not aware when your boundaries are exceeded, this is where your focus should be in the first place.
Many who have lived in families with insecurity and abuse have experienced how the boundaries were blurred and forbidden. You need to examine what is preventing you from feeling it.
Has it been forbidden to set boundaries?
Did they call you selfish when you said no?
Do you have family members who violated and exceeded your boundaries without your parents intervening?
Were or are you praised for your care and patience, so that you see it as positive when you persevere and endure the dysfunctional interaction in the family?
Is it your parents who are particularly violating your boundaries?
Many of my clients know how they can be drawn into their parents’ problems. Most have tried having a parent calling to talk about themselves, instead of listening and asking you what is going on in your life. If your parent is allowed to call and involve you in all sorts of problems and grievances, without being aware that you are not a trash can, or peer friend, or psychologist, but son / daughter, try to see what it is that prevent you from saying no to it.
Do you have a bad conscience and do you think it is a pity for him / her in general?
Is it because of pity that you allow him / her again and again to abuse your loyalty and time, even if it irritates you?
Do you think it is your responsibility to encourage and help your mom / dad?
Or what is the reason?
It may take time really to dare to notice what it actually does to you. Because you have become accustomed to the abuse.
You can start by admitting to yourself that this kind of communication is draining you.
When you do not notice the transgressive behavior of others, it may be that you are not in touch with yourself when you are with that person. Or the reason could be that you become wary of conflict in the situation, and uncomfortable with saying no and you avoid to feel that your boundaries has been violated.
It is normal for a bad conscience to dominate other emotions. Thus, when you feel angry with your parent, you may subsequently suddenly become embarrassed and ashamed, and punish yourself because you behave so selfishly.
What you have to realize is that what is going on between you and your parent is not healthy. As long as you expose yourself to others, including your mother or father, exceeding your boundaries without you saying no, then every time you send a signal to yourself that you are not that important. It diminishes your self-esteem, and has both mental and physical consequences in the long run.
Not being able to set boundaries is to be ruled by fear.
And you are ruled by fear, but not necessarily by love or by care.
I’ve added a link to a video. Although aimed at men, it describes a syndrome that women may also be affected by: How to stop being a nice guy at The Art of Manliness
Maybe you have an inner narrative that you do it because you care for others. But it is possible to be loving and caring without it being at the expense of yourself.
Face your fears.
Do you want to continue to be guided by these things:
- That others must not get angry and upset?
- That you must not disappoint people
- That others no longer like you
- That you seem self-absorbed and selfish
- That you create problems and are a troublesome person
You need to practice setting boundaries
Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others
– Brené Brown, Professor, Lecturer, Author, and Podcast Host
Take your experiences seriously when your boundaries are violated. You need to use your own experience of the situation to guide you. If your boundaries are violated, it will typically feel as if the other person is ignoring you, treating you as if you are not worth anything, not showing you interest or respect. You will feel invisible, let down, abused, drummed, violated and drained of power etc.
All these experiences are clear signs that your interaction with that person is not good.It must be stopped or corrected.
You need to practice setting boundaries
If you feel that your limits are being exceeded, but cannot figure out how to say it, then this is where you need to start training that skill.
The following are suggestions on how to communicate your boundaries.
- First, become aware of what you want to happen, instead of what is happening. Eg. that your mother calls and unloads without asking or listening to you. If you have a realistic expectation that she can change behavior, then you can prepare to set your boundaries, by asking yourself what you want instead. Be clear about how you would like the communications to be. How would you like you two to talk? Then that’s what you need to say.
- Eg. “Mom, I want you to listen to me and ask about me and my life. When you talk about your problems, I get involved in something I can do nothing about because I’m your daughter / son. I’m not your doctor or friend.” If you have experienced that she is not able to change, then you must make sure to shorten and maybe in between completely avoid the contact. It is your responsibility.
- When setting boundaries, it is important that you do not apologize. Practice communicating your boundary clearly and with dignity. With respect for yourself, without wrapping it up.
- Hold on to your boundary even if you are met by defense, apologies, denial, or criticism from the other. You do not have to listen too much to that kind of thing, but repeat your message and say that you do not want to discuss it.
- Practice in all possible contexts. The more you practice, the better you will become at it. Bear in mind that in the beginning you may get too angry or explain too much. All kinds of skills need to be practiced over and over again before we know them.
- You have to set boundaries all your life.
When you change an old pattern and no longer want others to violate your boundaries, you will definitely be overwhelmed by a bad conscience and doubt. You have to keep going anyway. The bad conscience is not true in this context, but it has helped to oppress you all your life. It’s actually a good sign when you suddenly feel it, because it’s a sign that you’re breaking out of being controlled by it.
On my website you will soon be able to find both a meditation and an affirmation, which gives you help and support in the process of setting boundaries.