Boundaries for the Beginner
If you are curious about boundary work and aren’t sure where to start, this post is for you. Often in the beginning of the journey, it can feel overwhelming. I get it. I was there. Like starting anything new, it takes time, openness and a willingness to remain curious. You will make mistakes. You will set too rigid of boundaries followed by too lenient of ones. But eventually you will trust your intuition, and find your gray. Here are a few points to get you started.
How do I learn to trust my intuition when setting a boundary?
First, I want to talk briefly about why you have lost your intuition. Often children who weren’t seen, heard or validated for their feelings grow into adults who aren’t able to see, hear or validate their own feelings. This distrust started early, and carries into adulthood. You may question yourself often, wondering if what you are thinking or feeling makes any sense. You may have conflict that arises as to whether or not what you need is fair or worthy of asking for. You may tell yourself often that you can handle it all and don’t need anyone to help you, yet are filled full of resentments and aren’t sure why. Part of rebuilding this trust is inner child work. If you haven’t read that post, I would suggest doing that before moving on. You can find it here.
Once you become more familiar and start the daily dialogue with your inner child, you will begin to advocate for and deliver on the unmet needs you carry. Tuning in is so important, and this takes quiet time. You must carve it out for yourself everyday. In those moments of solitude, you will begin the practice of challenging old scripts you carry. This practice will then carry over into your day to day activities. Over time you will become a curious observer, and will have the ability to sit back and ask things like “what is this teaching me? Why am I feeling this way? What is it I really need? What “story” or narrative am I telling myself right now?” This will help you respond rather than react, and allow you to rebuild the trust and confidence you have lost. This inner dialogue will help you decipher what you really need and utilize boundary work successfully while moving forward.
What do I do when someone disrespects my boundaries?
If you return to someone after they have disrespected your boundary, you are showing them that you do not respect it (or you) either. I hear often “well maybe if I explain why I set the boundary again, they will understand.” What I believe is under that motivation is either:
a need for a reply
a need for an explanation
a need to be validated
a need for an apology
a need for an agreement
And none of these above are why you set a boundary in the first place. When you return to someone for any of the above, you are letting fear win. Sit in the discomfort and the silence that happens after a boundary is set. I know it is weird. I know you feel a desire to run back and fix it, or make things “easy and peaceful” again. But growing pains are part of this process. Choose courage over comfort. You are worthy of freedom and safety.
But if I care for someone, shouldn’t I sacrifice my needs for theirs?
The difference between caring intensely for someone, and becoming codependent and losing yourself is your ability to use B O U N D A R I E S. I do not believe you can truly love someone without them. Every authentic, honest, growing relationship is rooted in them. They clarify where I begin and you end, what is mine to carry, and what isn’t. This keeps resentments at bay, and keeps those you love close. This allows you to show up as your best self. If you truly love someone, boundaries will be at the core of the relationship. It takes practice, trying and failing, and communication. But you must begin.
What’s the difference between being an empath and a codependent?
Empaths are intensely aware of how others feel. They often can carry the weight of other’s pain, and take on the energy of a room. I think it’s a survival trait picked up by children who needed to learn quickly what other’s were thinking and feeling in order to stay safe. Empaths must use boundaries or they will lose themselves to illness which can manifest into anxiety, gut/skin issues, and sleepless nights. How do you know if you tend to be codependent?
Ask these questions:
Am I worried for others often?
Do I allow others needs to supersede my own?
Do I have a hard time saying “no” ?
Do I often feel resentful, irritable, and depleted in relationships?
If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, most likely you have crossed over into codependent behavior within your relationships and are in MAJOR need of boundary work. Whether you are working to understand your empathetic or codependent patterns, boundaries are your best friend.
How do I attract more people who respect my boundaries?
You don’t. You will always attract people who will challenge or disrespect your boundaries. What will change however is your awareness of these people. You will also begin to confidently adjust your boundaries in response to their disrespect. And finally, your tolerance level will change. Meaning, you no longer will settle or stuff your needs to keep the peace. You won’t be distracted by those people, and will instead focus more energy and time on the possibilities for the future- watering the relationships that encourage, grow and inspire you.
I have been doing this “boundary work” for years and can tell you, it does get easier and your confidence WILL grow. It takes time, patience and a commitment to the practice.
Healing doesn’t happen on accident. I believe in you.
Yours in healing,