This post is part 11 of the series 31 Days of Lessons I Learned in Therapy.
How do you view boundaries?
Do you know what the phrase “personal boundaries” means in the context of relationships? Until the summer of 2014, I didn’t.
By personality and by training, I was a people pleaser.
I hate conflict and want to make people happy. Disappointment, anger, sadness, frustration – when I felt these emotions directed at me, I crumbled. I would do just about anything to please people. I’ve even been a doormat, allowing others to treat me badly and taking as my own another’s responsibility.
My desire to please led to exhaustion, resentment, and burnout. Yet I could not bring myself to say no to requests or demands.
During the summer of 2014, friends recommended Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. I purchased the book and met myself within its pages (more about that in the next lesson). For the first time, I learned about boundaries – what they are, what they do, and how to create and maintain them. I started working on creating boundaries in my life.
Boundaries mark where one thing [person] ends and another begins.
Initially, creating boundaries felt wrong to me. How could I say no? How could I refuse people’s requests or demands? With great fear, I timidly began to reject what didn’t belong to me.
I’m sorry, but I can’t do that for you.
I’m so sorry, but that project is not a good fit for me. I’ll have to decline.
No, I can’t do this any longer. It’s too much for me.
You misunderstood me, and I’m not accepting your criticism of me.
To my amazement, I found that my boundaries earned people’s respect.
I had expected people to be angry when I told them no. Instead, several people expressed their appreciation for my honesty. (As it turns out, healthy people respect boundaries and expect others to set them.) Encouraged, I continued to set boundaries.
Every boundary I set gave me a bit more peace and freedom.
No longer did fear control my every action. No longer did I find myself a slave of people’s opinions. Instead, I learned that I control what I allow into my life. The more I refused entrance to that which harmed me, the stronger I grew.
I’m still working on this lesson. When I find myself struggling to say no, I remember that boundaries protect me and make me a healthier person.
Have you learned to set boundaries in your life?
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