Throughout life we adopt certain habits and ways of communicating. Our habits are created initially from our upbringing, conditioning, values, and beliefs. We continue to learn from the life experiences we have and the relationships we build. How we react/respond to each individual is heavily dependent on our perception and the level of consciousness we hold.
Most of our communications should be healthy, with mutual respect, however if we find it difficult to say no, disagree, or express our opinion with confidence and without fear of reprisal or rejection, this can impact our confidence, self-esteem and can also create resentment.
If we have difficulty setting boundaries, this could be due to fear of upsetting others, people pleasing, fear of rejection, feeling like a bad person and so on - these can all lead to difficult emotions, over thinking, suffering and physical fatigue. Dealing with other people's problems and taking on their worries can be exhausting and can impact your mental well-being in a very negative way.
Without boundaries, we feel depleted, taken advantage of, taken for granted, or intruded upon. Boundaries help us take care of ourselves by giving us permission to say NO to things, to not take everything on - 'Give Yourself Permission' - the biggest obstacle to saying no or asking for what you want is fear.
These habits are learned and therefore can be changed with the correct tools and understanding of why you adopted this behaviour. For someone who has had weak boundaries for a long period, putting boundaries in place can be very difficult. It will create strained relationships with the people who have had a certain perception and expectation of you - the saying 'we teach people how to treat us' is very pertinent in this instance. You will have to be strong and expect some resistance, this is natural and should not be taken personally. We have behaved in a certain way and taught others what to expect from us, so making changes must be gradual especially if the relationship is close.
Setting boundaries is beneficial for far more than just defining your identity - having them in place limits your exposure to stress and unnecessary mental strain and contributes to a better quality of life.
Boundary setting does not come naturally, growing up we are taught to be kind and to respect and help others. The fine line between being a good person and having healthy personal boundaries is very blurred and can be challenging to implement. If boundaries are not in place, there is a high risk of burnout after many years of accepting and agreeing to behave in a way that conflict with our inner truth.
Boundary setting can be done at any time in our lives, we just need to be fully aware of the repercussions and build the self-love and resilience needed to combat any disappointment you may receive. If the bond is strong, your relationships will improve and there will eventually be a newfound understanding, level of respect and love once the boundary is accepted.
A few helpful ways to start putting in place healthy boundaries:
Remember what people think of you is not who you are - they are coming from their place of perception and needs.
Remember your lack of boundaries have been in place for a long time and have shaped part of your personality, this in turn became part of who you are and the expectations others had of you, so it will take a little while to put these healthy changes in place.
Learn to say no when you genuinely want to.
Learn to ask for what you want with confidence.
Learn to express yourself without fear.
Be fully aware of the negative reactions you may get - the closer and more needy the relationship, the more difficulty they will have accepting the changes.
Be kind and don't take the resistance and negative feedback personally.
Relationship dynamics will change and there will be a lot of shifts - be patient and kind, it can come as a shock to family, friends and people who have leaned on you or were so used to your lack of boundaries.
If the relationship suffers give it time - however if things don't improve and the relationship feels very strained then stepping back for a little while may be needed.
If the relationship suffers dramatically and no attempt to re-connect is made then, there is a strong possibility that the relationship was unhealthy, be strong and stick to your new found confidence. If they decide to end the relationship then let it be.
If the relationship is healthy, they will gradually accept your boundaries and it will strengthen the bond and lead to more healthy and enjoyable relationships.
Setting boundaries is a process, be patient, strong and kind with yourself - the rewards will enrich your life in ways you never imagined possible.