As empathetic and kind people, sometimes we hate to let people down. After all, human beings are meant to live in packs and kindness is one of the things that help us survive harsh lives. The question you should be asking yourself is how often do you go beyond your capacity to help people, give your time away to others and say ‘Yes’ when you really didn’t want to because you hate letting people down? If it happens more frequently and it’s affecting your health, making you feel anxious and low, depriving you of progress and growth, then it’s time to ask yourself ‘Why am I doing this?’. I am going to rip the band aid off and tell you that, you do have poor boundaries if you constantly feel like you can’t let people down. Ouch! I know. When I was about five, I remember holding my friend’s bicycle for hours (whilst it was on stand) and missing my lunch because I hated to let her down. In my early twenties, I dated someone for 3 months because I couldn’t say ‘no’, and I handled two full time senior roles in a previous job for one salary because I couldn’t let my boss down. I can assure you that, you are not alone.
What Are the Other Signs I Have Poor Boundaries?
There are other signs to say that you have poor boundaries. Unable to make decisions, constantly giving your time to others, inability to say ‘NO’, avoid speaking up when your feelings are hurt, feel taken advantage of, feel responsible for happiness of others, agree with others to keep peace, feel burned out, feel a lot of guilt when taking care of yourself and constant need to please others are some of the indicators that you have poor boundaries. Self-awareness is a gift. If you notice any of those patterns in your life and you recognise that it’s affecting your mental health, your productivity, your financial independence and your self-growth it’s time to change it. Remember! Once you have an insight, you can’t undo it.
Why Do I Have Poor Boundaries?
Poor boundaries are an indication to many things in your life. To name a few - childhood trauma, dominating parents/carers, conditioning, emotional negligence, toxic working environment and narcissistic abuse are some of them. The above list is not an exhaustive list. There could be many more reasons that’s unique to individuals.
As a result, you may tell yourself ‘I am not good enough’, ‘I am lazy’, ‘I am pessimistic’, ‘I don’t deserve it’, ‘so and so is better than me’, ‘this is all I can do’. In doing so, you have accepted that you deserve to be where you are feeling victimised and deprived of a brighter better life. I appreciate how you are feeling. The truth is, you are capable, have incredible potential and your past doesn’t have to define you in achieving what you want for you in the future.
Consequences of Having Poor Boundaries:
You may have already noticed the consequence of having poor boundaries. Feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, not having enough down time for yourself, not feeling appreciated, constantly feeling let down, feeling victimised, watching your colleagues going for opportunities with envy and asking the question why you are not that person, feeling stagnated and most of all constantly living in anxiety and fear are some of the consequences I would like to list out here. However, it could vary from individual to individual and situation to situation. For me, out of many consequences I had experienced, my poor mental health and my relationship with my child were the two main pointers in the right direction.
How Do I Establish Healthy Boundaries?
When you recognise that you have poor boundaries, going the opposite way and establishing defensive measures is not healthy. That’s important to remember. What you should be looking at is to establish healthy boundaries and communicate them clearly and effectively. I would like to share few tips on how you can do it.
• Journal – Writing your thoughts down always helps managing your thoughts. It helps you reflect and recognise patterns. I am not asking you to look for a particular pattern here. I am simply asking you to start journaling and getting your thoughts out of your head. When you have written your thoughts for about 2-3 weeks, read all the notes. You will start recognising patterns of when, how, with whom your boundaries are low and how those boundaries made you feel. Recognise specific emotions and feelings in those particular moments.
• Learn the Art of Communication – I mentioned earlier about establishing healthy boundaries. Learning how to communicate your emotions, feelings and thoughts is the key to establishing boundaries. Just imagine going to a candy shop as a child and not knowing the names of the candy you want and not knowing how to ask for it. You will leave the shop end up with a bag of candy that you didn’t like in the first place. Working with a coach or a mentor will always help.
• Positive Environment – Be surrounded by people who have defied the odds, overcome those challenges and achieved greater lives. Be around people who are positive, encouraging and fulfilled in their lives. Those people’s vibrational frequency is positive, and their energy levels are high, and it will affect your energy levels positively.
• Build Healthy Routines – Exercising, meditating, eating healthily, having time for yourself to unwind and engage in personal growth activities like taking up a new course, learning something new are very important. These activities help you build your immune system, releases healthy hormones like dopamine and creates new neural pathways in your brain. Ultimately, they will lead to raising self-awareness, having new goals in your life and build your confidence. The key is to do all or some of the above consistently.
• Work with a professional – As I mentioned earlier, our boundaries get lower as a result of beliefs that we make specially as a child between the age of 0-6. If you have particularly experienced a traumatic childhood, it is important to work with a professional to help you recover from the trauma and re-establish positive beliefs about yourself. You may need different professionals at different stages and that’s O.K., as long as you work with a professional. For example, I offer therapy and work with individuals’ future goals using different modalities, but some may offer therapy only. There are many different modalities out there to choose from and do your research to find out what works for you. Counselling, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), EMDR, Hypnotherapy, (EFT) Emotional Freedom Technique, ETT (Emotional Transformation Therapy) Mindfulness are some of them.
Just imagine all the possibilities you could have, the promotion you could go for, the pay rise you could ask, venturing out from your boring career to do something meaningful or getting your worth as a businesswoman/entrepreneur when you can establish positive boundaries. How positively will your life change if you can confidently say ‘no’, be decisive, be assertive and know your worth. How much does it cost you every day not knowing your boundaries? What approach would you chose; having positive boundaries and creating unlimited potential for you or allowing your boundaries to be crushed by others and be living a limited life. The choice is always yours.
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