I hear over and over again, yea Jocelyn, setting boundaries is great and all but you don’t understand, if I set the boundary then all hell will break lose or I will lose my relationships. In all transparency, most of the fears I hear from clients are valid fears. There is a real possibility that a number of things can happen when you set a boundary but the real question is, what’s bigger? The possible fear coming true or the healing that happens for you when you set the boundary? Sometimes the fear wins and that is okay but let’s talk about them a little bit more.
The first common fear I hear is that I will upset someone. Guess what?! Odds are someone may get upset. However, you cannot control how other people perceive your boundary. All you can control is your side of the street and whether you communicate your boundary with love and respect and make sure you are coming from a place of owning your side of the street and not trying to control or manipulate anyone else. Let’s play this out. A friend asks you to go out with her tomorrow night after work but you have set some boundaries with yourself that you don’t go out on work nights. You know that this friend does not take no well and often gives you guilt trips and gets upset when you don’t agree with her. In this case, while the relationship is important to you, which is more important, denying yourself to not upset your friend or upsetting your friend and being true to your needs and boundaries? Or what if your friend cusses like a sailor and you don’t feel comfortable with that in front of your kids? You have a choice. Do I assert my boundaries and my need for a verbally safe environment for my kids or stuff my preferences to ensure the comfort of my friend? Keep in mind, this boundary is not about changing your friend or her words, it is about keeping your home free from language you don’t want your kids hearing. Do you see the difference? Trying to change your friend is manipulation and control. Setting boundaries around what you allow in your home is about you and your needs.
The next fear, fear of other people’s perceptions. Are you afraid that others will think you are pushy, demanding, rude or a slew of other negative things? Like I said before, we cannot control how other people view our behavior. What can we control? We can control how we convey our boundaries and our intentions. When we focus more on other people’s perceptions then we do our own, we are giving that other person power over us. I don’t know about you but there some people that I do not want to have power over me. So, what do I do about it? I strengthen that self-esteem muscle to know who I am, what I stand for and what is my heart so that it is not swayed by the potential negative perceptions of others. I also practice that protection boundary so that my worth and value is not tied to the opinion of others.
Let’s talk about another fear: What if I lose the relationship? While this is not as common, it does sometimes happen. If people are used to taking advantage of you, of you always saying yes even when you want to say no or using you in some way and now they can’t, they may discard you and find someone else to use and abuse. I don’t mean to be harsh here but that is actually a gift when those people choose to leave your life. Now, what about the people that don’t abuse you but you still fear if you set a boundary, they will leave. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each side. Pros of setting a boundary are you assert your needs/wants and change happens. Cons of setting a boundary is the dynamics of the relationship may change and someone may choose to not honor that and instead leave. What are the pros of not setting the boundary? The relationships stays the same and you don’t have to ride the wave of discomfort. The cons of not setting the boundary? You deny yourself and your wants/needs and more often than not develop a whole heck of a lot of resentment.
Let’s talk about the last fear. If I set the boundary, I don’t think I will be able to follow through with taking action if the boundary is violated. Let’s start with this. If you aren’t going to follow through on the boundary, don’t set it. You can share preferences but setting a boundary and not following through sends a loud message that it is okay to continue violating boundaries and we don’t want to send that message. Now, back to the fear of not being able to follow through. Let’s explore that….. Is the fear of not being able to follow through due to past experiences of not following through, of a lack of confidence in yourself, fear of the response when action is taken or lack of knowing what action step to take if the boundary is crossed? Each one of these reasons needs to be explored to find out the root issue and to deal with it. But, that is going to take more than a blog post to do…..
So, what’s your fear? Maybe it is one of the above or maybe it is something completely different. Whatever the fear is, think about the pros and cons of setting and not setting the boundary and see which one outweighs the other. If not setting the boundary outweighs setting the boundary, then work on that internal protection boundary so that you can be okay regardless of whatever is happening. Don’t know what an internal boundary is or how to set a boundary? You are not alone. Join my boundaries course today and learn all the ins and outs of boundaries, setting boundaries, obstacles to setting boundaries and more. You are worth it!
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Jocelyn is a Licensed Professional Counselor and course creator who desires to help clients heal and grow into who God created them to be.
Providing holistic mental health
counseling to help you find healing
and live courageously.