The Importance of Healthy Boundaries Part I

{ Monday, April 30, 2012 }
If there is one thing I learned over the years, it's the importance of looking out for yourself, and listening to what your body and mind has to say. If this sounds logical, then why are there so many people who make themselves invisible in order to please others? There is nothing wrong with empathy, giving charity and being there for others, of course not. But is constantly putting others' needs before yours really what you should do? The answer is no.

For anyone who has tried to constantly please someone else, without expecting or getting anything in return, haven't you noticed how burned out you feel after a while? I'm not on about volunteering or helping the needy, because I know that helping people in need can be very rewarding. I'm on about pleasing a demanding partner or friend. Someone who always expects you to be there for them, but can't be bothered to return the favor. Someone who doesn't listen when you say no, but keeps insisting until you say yes, even if it's bad for you. Someone who constantly talks about him/herself, but never asks about you or listens when you talk about something that concerns you. Basically, someone who walks all over you and makes you forget who you really are. After a while you become so used to saying yes that you forget there is an alternative - a loud, resounding NO. The thing is, his or her needs are not more important than your own. If you think they are, if you have problems taking care of yourself, turning down an offer that's not good for you, and if you always do what the other person tells you to do, you might have a problem with setting boundaries. 

Boundary  - That which indicates or fixes a limit or extent, or marks a bound, as of a territory; a bounding or separating line; a real or imaginary limit.

That's right, a limit. A until here and no further sign. 

We might have been taught that it's bad to have limits. We might have been taught (in our early childhood or by the culprit him/herself) to always stay friendly, to make excuses for someone's behavior, to serve others and not think about our own wishes and needs, because that is "selfish".
Bad and boundary-bashing behavior can be very subtle. It might not include physical violence, but that doesn't mean it's not abuse. If someone makes you forget who you really are on the inside, what you really want in life, who your real friends are, that is abuse. It's like a vampire sucking the blood, your will to live, right out of you. 
Don't you think you at least deserve to stay you? 

So what are the signs that you are involved with someone who's bad for you? What are the signs of having problems with boundaries?

- You feel drained after you spend time with him/her. You feel like you need to take rest and emotionally recharge yourself before you can be in his/her company again.

- You feel like you always have to be concerned with his/her needs and problems. He/she makes your own needs and problems seem trivial, not worthy of attention, and certainly much less important than his/hers.

- He/she insults you, criticises you, and puts you down, even over the smallest things (like how you should do the dishes). When you do something "praiseworthy", he/she remains silent.

-  He/she makes you feel bad about yourself, and makes you feel you are so "lucky" to have him/her in your life.

- He/she puts you under pressure. He/she teaches you there are "wrong" and "right" answers to a question, and when you answer the wrong way, you get "punished". When he/she asks you a question, you are more occupied with finding the "right" answer, that pleases him/her, than to answer what is true for you.

- When someone asks you what you want in life, you have absolutely no idea. You only know what he/she expects of you, and what he/she wants for the two of you.

- He/she has a problem with fidelity. He/she needs to have his/her ego stroked on a regular basis, and by different people. He/she will flirt with other people in front of you and lie to you about how he/she told them he/she's already involved with someone and it's only "innocent". He/she likes to make other people fall in love with him/her, and will even have multiple relationships/marriages at once.

- You are afraid to express your feelings towards this person, because you don't want him/her to retaliate. You know that an emotion that he/she doesn't please, will be "punished". 

- Everything is always your fault, even is the other person hits you, cheats on you or insults you. He/she is infallible. He/she is the "good" person who puts up with your "bad" behavior, and you should kiss his/her feet and thank him/her for it. 

- You carry a lot of grudge and anger towards this person, but never know how to express it in a healthy way. When you really can't take it anymore, you have an explosion of rage in his/her presence, for which you afterwards beg for forgiveness for, because you don't want to lose him/her. 

- He/she is like an addiction to you. When you manage to break away, you always need to come back, and repeat the same mistakes, even if it hurts and makes you despise yourself.

- You mistake "passion" for insecurity, unpredictability and fear of losing someone. When you meet someone who doesn't give you these 3 things, you feel like there is no "spark".

- You feel like saying "no" to others is a bad and selfish thing, even if it hurts you to say yes.

- You consider anger a "bad" emotion, that needs to be hidden away. You don't see it as a sign that something is wrong.

- When someone asks you a question about what you want, your most common answer is "I don't know". 

- You feel ashamed about how you let other people treat you. You direct all your anger towards yourself, because *surely*  this happened because you are "weak" and "not good enough". Despite the shame, it seems impossible for you to actually change the situation and put a stop to the mistreatment. 


Anne said...

Some people think that to set boundaries in our relationships is selfish. But I agree with you. We are free to love anyone but that doesn't mean allowing them to take everything away from us. Precisely, to love is to know how to respect. And if people can't see that, perhaps they're not worthy of our love after all.

Safiyah said...

I agree 100% with you Anne! If people can't respect our boundaries, they only "love" us for selfish reasons, and we should be very careful with allowing such people into our lives.

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