Last week we talked about why we can find it hard to set boundaries. We discussed how they are necessary for living a fulfilling life and developing self-worth. We established that boundaries help us get clarity around our priorities and present a guide to living according to our personal values and beliefs.
Depending on where we are at and what’s most important to us at that moment, our boundaries will change. They are likely to be different from someone else’s and it is a pointless exercise comparing them. Just like it’s pointless comparing ourselves to another at any time.
Healthy boundaries are flexible and allow for adjustments according to personal beliefs and circumstances.
For this reason, people set and reset different boundaries at different times, and these are often based on previous experiences. They might include:
- Physical or sexual
- Mental or emotional
- Spiritual or religious
And the all-important
- NON-NEGOTIABLE or deal-breaking boundaries
However, even when we have the best of intentions, we cannot control how others respond. There will always be someone that comes along and seems to get pleasure in driving us crazy. Or someone else who sees but disregards our boundaries altogether. This puts the ball back in our court as to how we will counter respond.
I read once about ‘boundary bullies’. The extreme version of this behaviour is narcissism but most bullies act in more subtle ways with many not even aware of what they are doing.
For this reason, it is important that first, we are clear as to what our boundaries are, and second, we communicate them in a compassionate, non-judgmental, and empowered way. Most people will appreciate this, as consciously or unconsciously, they will likely have boundaries of their own.
You may be asking, so how do I know if someone is subtly pushing my boundaries, or if I am pushing theirs? Again, you need to know exactly what your boundaries are and be clear on theirs as well.
Here of some indications that one of you might be overstepping the line (you or they are interchangeable in each example):
- You get frustrated, angry, or defensive when others tell you ‘NO’.
- They disregard, or are uninterested, in your point of view continuing to push their own agenda (eg. Yes but I…)
- They are prepared to do whatever it takes, no matter what, to get their own way (to win).
- They are mastering the art of manipulation and emotionally influencing others to do what they want eg. via guilt, shame, judgement.
- You rely solely on them to make you happy or to feel good (ex. co-dependency).
- They repeatedly ignore conversations where you have raised concerns or communicated a broken boundary.
- You regularly complain to them that life doesn’t go your way blaming someone (or something) outside yourself.
- They get in your physical space despite you being uncomfortable (eg. you need to step back)
- They constantly want something from you even when they know you are ‘to capacity’.
- And then there are all the other romantic, professional, and financial boundaries…
If we think about it, we’ve probably all been guilty at some point of acting out one or more of the above list – and it happens.
Crossing a boundary does not make us a bad person, it makes us human… BUT…
Continuing to repeat the action despite knowing it brings discomfort or harm to you or someone else is a clear sign of disrespect.
People will push boundaries for many reasons. Some have low self-esteem or are focussed on self-serving behaviours. Others find it challenging to connect and form meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships. For the majority though, I like to believe it’s a simple lack of awareness and the boundary was not recognised (or clear) in the first place.
Whether you are talking to yourself or someone else, direct and compassionate communication will strengthen your standpoint and demonstrate you are clear and comfortable enforcing your boundaries.
“With every mistake, the eraser gets smaller“
– Ben Shaw
At the end of the day, we are all human and there will always be someone who won’t respect your boundaries and that’s okay. Perhaps it’s time for the following:
Re-assess – How important is the boundary? Is it negotiable?
Accept – People are people. Some will never respect your boundaries no matter what.
Detach – Is it time to limit/change contact with this person? Or have no contact at all?
Whatever you decide, it will be the right decision for you as long as you are clear as to what you are trying to achieve and what you ultimately want.
Dalya xx 💙