In this post I’ll be shedding some light on the reason we have tricky relationships and interactions, the secret to dealing with overwhelm and how to make some significant changes that will positively impact your dealings with others, your work life and help you to feel more in control. It’s a long one and I have A LOT to say on the subject , but do stick with it, it’s worth it!
Do you find that you struggle with other people taking advantage of your good nature? Perhaps you find it hard to speak up or say no to others. Do you find you ‘lose yourself’ when you enter a new relationship and it becomes all about the other person? Are you easily overwhelmed by work and doing too much? If any of the above ring true for you then a crash course in boundaries might be of benefit.
This one thing will improve ALL your relationships!
I’m naturally a massive people pleaser and in the past, I’ve got myself into a complete state of overwhelm, bending over backwards to help others and it’s only when I learned about boundaries that this started to change.
It’s the reason we often find some relationships challenging. A lot of the time, we think it’s our boss, our partner, our circumstances, our work culture or just someone else that’s to blame. Of course, these factors do have a part to play. What we often don’t realise is that we have more control than we think over how people treat us and ultimately how harmonious our relationships are.
So, what exactly are boundaries?
Boundaries are the limits we set ourselves with regard to other people and situations. Like unspoken rules – we have physical boundaries e.g how much personal space we need, how much we like someone else to hug or touch us. We have intellectual boundaries – how we are affected by others ideas and how we impose ours on other people. We have boundaries about just about everything and mostly they are unconscious. We’re not always aware of them. Sometimes they are too porous or weak. Sometimes too fixed or rigid. They are there to protect our space and feelings.
Ultimately our emotional wellbeing rests on having healthy boundaries.
When we start looking at our boundaries we realise we do have control over how people treat us, how overwhelmed we feel, how resentful we are and ultimately this is empowering, and it means we can start transforming ourselves, our work lives and our relationships with others. So how do you know if you need to strengthen your boundaries?
Signs of weak or porous boundaries include:
- You have trouble saying no.
- You agree to work, projects or attending yet another baby shower but feel resentment after saying yes.
- You are a people pleaser and feel very guilty at the thought of letting people down, even in small ways.
- You self-abandon – this means not looking after yourself and putting other people’s needs first.
- Feeling invaded – someone is encroaching on you, draining your energy.
- Telling all/ oversharing – talking at an intimate level at first meeting with someone.
- Being consumed by someone else. Merging into the other person in a relationship, losing self in the process.
- Going against your personal values for another person e.g getting drunk with them when you don’t usually drink.
- Accepting food, touch, sex you don’t want e.g. if you’re on a health kick and someone brings in treats and you eat them so as not to offend.
Where does having weak boundaries comes from?
Our drive to please others is natural—our ancestors depended on others for survival.
But people pleasing comes from early childhood. Being raised in an environment in which love was conditional, caretakers were emotionally unavailable, or when even small mistakes were severely punished can lead children to develop a strong fear of disappointing others
Many people pleasers measure their worth by what they do for others, and never learn the value of who they are without the giving, doing, and pleasing. As children we are unable to make sense of reactions from our families and teachers and think we have to please in order to be loved.
Sometimes parents treat children like adults, allowing them to be privy to adult information, perhaps using them as a sounding board, telling them their problems – this also creates weak boundaries. Weak boundaries are especially prevalent in people who grew up in dysfunctional families where a parent was an alcoholic or substance abuser or had mental illness meaning that they were not emotionally there for the child. The child would have felt responsible for the parent and then in adult life feels responsible for other’s happiness and therefore lets people take advantage and exploit them.
How do weak boundaries show up in relationships?
When you let the other person dictate your schedule, giving up things that you did before you met them. You end up falling into their habits
- You used to go to the gym 3 times a week before and now you don’t at all.
- You were vegetarian your whole life but then give it up when you date a meat eater (I actually knew someone who did this!)
- You’d given up smoking and then started up again as your new partner smokes.
- You no longer go to bed at a time that suits you because partner wants you to stay up late.
- You stop seeing your friends in favour of always spending time with your partner.
How do weak boundaries show up in friendships?
- Giving too much of your time. Always dropping everything for friends.
- Letting someone rant at you for an hour. They feel great because they offloaded but you feel drained and shit because you didn’t speak for that whole time, just absorbed.
- People pleasing – always doing favours, sometimes at your own expense.
How do weak boundaries show up at work?
- Doing way too much overtime, taking on additional projects when you really don’t want to.
- Digital boundaries – checking your emails on Sunday whilst you’re with your friends, responding to emails at midnight. What that’s doing is setting up an expectation that you’re always available. Then when you don’t reply at midnight, they get angry, and you feel resentment, but it was your weak boundaries that made the situation happen.
- Also blurring the line between work and friendships. Oversharing – saying too much stuff about ourselves in the office, maybe encroaching on other people’s boundaries who don’t want to hear it.
- Taking things personally – your boss gives you constructive criticism e.g this project wasn’t managed well and you internalise it to mean “I am rubbish”.
- Hugs – just because you’re tactile doesn’t mean other people are. We have different cultural norms that have to be taken into consideration.
How do weak boundaries show up financially?
- You say yes to the friends that always suggest going to fancy restaurants at the end of the month before payday.
- Lending money to friends even though you feel uncomfortable doing so. If someone asks you and it doesn’t feel great, don’t do it.
Boundaries impact pretty much every area of our lives! Three of the biggest indicators of weak boundaries are feeling drained, overwhelmed or resentful. Whenever we feel these it’s a big sign to take a look at where we need to strengthen a boundary or put one in place.
When our boundaries are weak, unguarded, or unclear, we let in all sorts of stuff that isn’t actually our stuff, and we give away our own personal energy unconsciously.
That means we’re dealing with a breach of our energetic security system and a leak of our own personal energy. So, once we are aware of all this, what can we do?
Tips for creating healthier boundaries
- If saying no is too challenging say “I’ll come back to you”. This gives you time to dig deep and get the courage to say no a bit later.
- If you get asked to do some work when you’re at capacity – be transparent. Say “I’m doing X which takes up Y time and has a deadline of Z”. Let them decide if their request is more urgent and then they know if you’re then behind on something else because they’ve changed the urgency order. Treat it like a discussion rather than a command.
- If you’re a ‘yes person’ keep a ‘no log’ of every time you say no to something. This will encourage you to keep it up and it will get easier with practice!
- Re-examine your relationship with your phone – look at when you’re responding to work stuff, is it when you’re with your family, just because everyone it does it, doesn’t make it right for you.
- Increase your Self-care – check in with yourself, with a request from someone ask (within reason of course) is this something you really want to do? Stop skipping your lunch break so much, make your time a priority over other people’s, put your basic needs ahead of anything anyone else wants from you.
I encourage you to write down all the specific ways in which you display weak boundaries and take some steps to change your behaviour to strengthen them. People might not like it at first but I PROMISE it’s worth it and will make a difference. People will stop treating you like a doormat, the people pleaser guilt will eventually dissipate and you’ll find yourself feeling less overwhelmed and drained and resentful and instead find you feel free with more energy and far less inner turmoil!
I’d love to hear what you think and how you get on – leave me a comment in the box below and good luck!