Do you lack good boundaries? Here's what to evaluate!Jun 01, 2023
What to look for if you suspect you don’t have good boundaries? If you're thinking that you might lack good boundaries, this article will help you to explore it!
Do you have porous Boundaries?
One of the first signs my clients tend to notice on repeat at the start of their boundary journey is that their relationships may tend to have been difficult or dramatic. Certainly in my work, but also in wider society in general ; I find that most people are conditioned to some degree of ‘people pleasing’. They often don’t know that it could be causing issues for them. This kind of conditioning was taught as mostly the norm for so many generations - especially those who are in, or coming up to midlife now. It often is the place where I first meet people. Exhausted, accustomed to emotional/psychological abuse in their relationships. Put upon and low key angry and sad inside.
Boundaries can have been framed by early experiences to be dangerous, when from the place of childhood trauma. Any kind of abuse in childhood gives a child the message that they don’t matter as an adult matters, and as a child they don’t get to have boundaries. It is quite common, certainly in my work, to meet people who learned from a parent caregiver, their purpose in life was through people pleasing. This tends to be what they grow up to see as love ; self sacrifice, self-abandonment and self betrayal.
As humans who survive by attachment, the secret fear of people who lack healthy limits is being rejected or abandoned. The message we get from a parent/caregiver who did not provide unconditional love and acceptance, is that we must do what others want of us in order to avoid that rejection and abandonment. As an adult, it creates a very deep sense of fear of either of these outcomes.
Can you learn to spot a possible breach of boundaries earlier at the start of a relationship?
Yes, yes you can. People who need to control others to feel powerful (bullies, abusers) definitely will push boundaries with you early on. They want to see if you have the right environment for them to gradually ramp up the pressure and control they need, to create dependence on them and lose your sense of self. They use love bombing, and finding out in great detail early on (feels so flattering that they seem so interested in you, right?) the wounds you may hold, and the depths of your empathy and kindness.
Make no mistake, they are looking at all of your reactions and words when they put forth their (often fake) victim and hard luck stories. It has a clear purpose. So they can exploit and weaponize it against you to get what they want later in the relationship.
*Please note, that being targeted by abusers is NEVER your fault. They choose you, they lure you in to be the mirror of everything you are looking for. However, you can find more awareness and ability to filter people with these behaviors out quicker, by learning boundaries as one of the 6 areas I have found to be the most significant in empowerment and recovery from trauma and abuse.
How to know if you lack good boundaries?
Here are some pointers to look for within yourself and the dynamics of your life.
Are you a chronic people pleaser?
People may perceive your lack of healthy boundaries as a sign that you don’t know how to take care of yourself. This is really attractive to entitled, controlling and abusive people who actually do want to control you. Another thing to look out for that can lend itself to having porous boundaries, is that if you have grown up with the feeling you had no personal power and you did not feel it was safe to stand up and speak up for yourself. This could be unconsciously through many factors like social, religious, racial, gender norms etc within the many systems of oppression that exist. Also, if you were modeled, or found you had to resort to yourself ; unconscious manipulation to get what you want. This can translate to you repeatedly being in codependent relationships and friendships that intellectually feel normal (and even comfortable to your nervous system) - but truly they are usually more one-sided, and lack an equal exchange of give and take to a trained eye.
How do you feel about letting people down?
It was certainly true for me, (and is of almost everyone I have worked with) that the thought of letting someone down used to create epic proportions of panic, anxiety and resistance. I used to hate to let other people down, I mean HATE it! If you are a person who has nor been modeled or taught boundaries (hardly anyone I have met!), or were actively discouraged from having personal limits so you would be easy to control/abuse - then it is really likely that your M.O would be to always go along with other other people’s plans and wants. Unconsciously the nervous system will want to stick to the familiar and sacrifice Yourself - rather than deal with the perceived huge threat of letting someone down or saying ‘no’.
How do you feel about your decision-making?
Another huge observation within my work is that people who struggle with boundaries find making decisions really challenging. Without conscious understanding, they have ended up spending so much of life doing what everyone else wanted, that they have often all but lost their sense of self. It can feel huge and overwhelming to even know what they do or don’t want. Then when they need to make a decision they shut down and completely blank.
What happens when you say yes, or take a step for yourself?
How many of you have said YES to a thing you really wanted to have or do which to an outsider may be a regular thing, or even a small thing. But then felt constantly guilty, ashamed, fearful or panicked about it? It could be something like going on a night out once in a year, or taking the last cookie in the jar or drop of milk from the fridge. Most of the people I meet whose boundaries are not yet strong, feel guilty and bad for the smallest of things.
How is your energy?
A common factor that is usually present with people and porous boundaries is that they can feel tired constantly. This is also really hard to gauge of course, because I hardly know anyone who doesn’t feel tired often, just from the pace of life, the ridiculous load that comes with families and work and expectations and trying to make ends meet in an ever unrealistic and greedy economy. But, if you yourself really sit and feel into it, you can usually lean into discerning how much of this energetic load you have, is down to always doing what other people want, or trying to meet ever rising expectations placed upon you. Of course this will have a big impact, as your own life is then an afterthought. Stuffed into the time leftover from pleasing everyone else. Truly this is exhausting, in that heavy thud in the soul kind of way. There is an energy and passion to remembering, connecting to and pursuing your own dreams and goals in life. When this is not a focus, and sits at the bottom of the list after everyone else’s - you can just feel tired, numb and low-key depressed with the day to day of life.
Do you feel frequently taken advantage of?
I don’t think I have ever met anyone who has realized they have work to do on boundaries ; who doesn't feel taken advantage of. Often the victim of situations and injustice in the way people see and treat you. Feeling hard done by, manipulated or scapegoated is usually a factor too. It is perhaps a sad fact that people will often take advantage of you in subtle and not so subtle ways. In the workplace, familial dynamics, intimate relationships and social circles. Imagine if it is happening all at once, in many areas - it really adds up. To the point that you might have internalized the notion that you are just a person for whom everything goes wrong for.
How pissed are you deep down?
If you sat with yourself and felt into your body ; is there a feeling of low-key frustration and anger much of the time? How would it not be?! Going with what others want or expect from you, denying your own needs as a result, getting taken advantage of on the regular - all of this is enough to make anyone pissed. Congratulations, you are human. A human that needs boundaries.
How do you feel you do with sharing appropriately your personal details?
Most people I meet on a boundary journey will tell me that they are an open book and are happy to share personal details with anyone. Often though, they might not realize they are oversharing details of their life with people in their private lives, and feel bad not answering questions someone may ask. In your background it may have been taught or implied that it was rude to be vocal in your need for privacy, and refuse to share personal details when another asks. Conversely, when in relationships where someone does want to be close with you, you find you struggle really hard to know how to express your wants and needs in a healthy way, and can come up against intimacy issues over and over.
How passive-aggressive can you be?
Be honest. The familiar nervous system pattern of others taking advantage of you, gives way to the feeling of resentment that builds with each micro incident. It may leave you feeling like you blame other people for that consistently. Or complain regularly to them or others, and try to pick at them or manipulate some kind of power back, as you find it so hard to really feel the full responsibility for being clear about your needs originally. Anger and resentment starts to build, and you feel triggered by the outcome that you wanted was not obtained - when you expected someone to achieve it without you ever having said it. I hear a lot of that within the couples I work with ; the principle of expecting the other to be a mind reader.
How respected by others do you feel?
Is there a deeply held belief that you are not respected by peers, family, colleagues or intimate partners? Even knowing that boundaries are a good way for people to respect you and your limits - it can feel terrifying and also as though if you tried to set them those same people who don’t respect you would disrespect your boundaries and you even more.
How is your clarity of your life’s purpose?
How effective do you feel you are at setting goals, and applying follow through to achieving them? I find that if you have been taught that other people come first, and your needs and wants are not a priority - you find it hard to be motivated to pursue something that is about you and for you. I have noticed that it is easier for people who struggle with boundaries to get behind a goal or personal development when they frame the outcome as to the value and good it will do for others in their lives. They also seem to find it hard to truly define who they are. Hard to define their beliefs and values, as it is not a focus for them. This can even cause an identity crisis, but ask them about how they define others in their lives and what is important to them and they can talk for an hour on it.
Are you ready to learn how to set healthy boundaries?
Join us in the Badass Boundaries course!
This course will help you to learn how to set healthy boundaries after trauma or abuse.
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