Let’s face it, none of us are perfect with our boundaries. Even as I write this, I am thinking of all the ways I have struggled with boundaries today. I said yes when I wanted to say no, I did not honor my own boundaries around self-care and I struggled clearly communicating my needs to someone I love. You are not alone in this struggle and I know I am not alone either. There are many signs that your boundaries may be out of alignment so let’s talk about a few.
The first sign: resentment in your relationships. When your relationships with partners and friends (or even the stranger down the street) are filled with bitterness and contention, that is a clear sign of a boundary issue. That could be because you have some boundaries that you need to set with others or it could be that you need to strengthen your internal boundaries (or more than likely both). Either way, you are not happy because you do not feel like you are getting what you need in the relationship.
The second sign: You constantly feel overwhelmed. When you have a to-do list a mile long and are balancing a million things on your plate, you have boundary issues. Most often this is due to not setting boundaries or setting boundaries and then when people push against them, caving in. Perhaps people are used to you being the “yes” person and so when you actually do say no, they do not accept that and pressure you until you eventually cave. Or, you may be the person that gets your worth and value by serving others. In therapy we like to call this a human doing instead of a human being. Someone that constantly is striving to earn their right to be here or prove that they are valuable versus just being able to be present without having to prove yourself.
The third sign: You have high internal conflict and conflict with others. When you have an internal battle raging inside of you, it is a red flag you have boundary issues. Your internal boundary muscle needs work because you are currently allowing the thoughts and opinions of others to impact you negatively and dictate your thoughts and feelings. You are also lacking boundaries with yourself and giving permission for negative self-talk to dictate your thoughts. Your itty bitty sh*tty committee is strong in your life because your negative self-talk and the voices of those around you who have spoken negatively about you or to you. You also have conflict with others because of resentment (which we discussed earlier) but also because your needs and wants aren’t clear. Either you know what your boundaries are and you are not communicating them effectively or you don’t even know what they are but are upset with those around you for not honoring them.
The fourth sign: You feel unappreciated and taken for granted. When we do not set boundaries, we allow others to take advantage of us. We say yes when we want to say no, we take on too much and then are upset because we feel unappreciated for all of our work and sacrifice. We believe others take us for granted and our efforts go unacknowledged. We may feel like a martyr, sacrificing ourselves for others and yet, we still don’t get the appreciation we long for.
The fifth sign: You struggle identifying your needs and wants. Maybe none of these other signs have related to you because it is not that you are not communicating your boundaries, you don’t even know what they are. You don’t know what your preferences are in your relationships and interactions with others. You don’t have awareness of when your boundaries are violated because you don’t even know what a boundary is. If this is you, you are not alone. I see this all of the time with my clients and my students. This is whether therapy can be such a benefit. Someone can walk alongside you to teach and guide you on what a boundary is and how to set boundaries in your life. If you are not ready for therapy or you want something more, that is why I created the boundaries course that can be found on my website.
Regardless of which (or all) of the signs you relate to, the action step is the same. You need to take a deep breath, say an affirmation and remember this takes practice. If you don’t know about boundaries, learn more. If you do know, take the time to slow down and identify what boundaries you need to set with yourself and others and then slowly, start sharing those boundaries. You may need to write them out first and practice them, that is okay. Whichever step you are on, work on taking the next step because you are worth having healthy boundaries.
Jocelyn is a Licensed Professional Counselor and course creator who desires to help clients heal and grow into who God created them to be.