Especially if boundaries are hard for you.
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Two Common Myths About Setting Boundaries
If you are a people-pleaser, co-dependent, or empath, setting boundaries may be hard for you. You may have grown up with your parents, or other adults, crossing your boundaries often. It feels normal to you. As a child, you had no say as to how others treated you. Now, you are an adult, and you have the right to set boundaries, so you can feel respected and safe.
Doctors Henry Cloud, and Robert Townsend wrote about eight boundary myths in their book, Boundaries. I found two of these myths common with my clients and community. They were hard for me when I started setting boundaries, too.
- I’m being selfish – Many empathic people feel like they are being a good person when they help others. While that is often true, in some cases, helping harms the other person. For example, if you are doing something to help out your teenage child, like doing their laundry, but they could really be doing it themselves, you are keeping them from learning a life lesson about self-care. Also, if you resent having to help someone because you don’t really have the time, or resources, that is harmful to your relationship. If you are allowing behavior, or helping someone out, but you become resentful, that’s not really fair to the other person. Do you want someone helping you that feels resentful about it? Probably not. You would rather ask someone else, or do it yourself.
- I will hurt others – People new at setting boundaries often believe they are going to hurt the other person’s feelings. This is especially true when you’ve grown up with a toxic family member or caretaker that often crossed your boundaries, and convinced you that was normal behavior. Think of it this way, if the situation were reversed, and this person was asking you not to do something they found annoying or hurtful, how would you respond? Most likely, you would say, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was upsetting you. I will try harder.” And you would try harder. It might sting a little, but you would understand. Keep in mind, the person that gets upset with your boundary is usually the person that was benefitting from your lack of boundaries. They aren’t necessarily looking out for your well-being.
What To Do When a Relationship Becomes Fractured Over New Boundaries
- Give it time – If someone gets upset over your boundaries, give them a little time for adjustment. Hopefully, after they have some time to think about it, they will be more understanding and try harder. It’s actually not your business whether they understand or not. As long as they come around and respect your boundary, you can have a healthier relationship.
- Reconsider the relationship – If your relationship becomes fractured or strained because of a boundary you set, you must consider whether that person truly cares about you. I set a boundary with a family member, and he continually crossed it. I actually gave him several chances. Eventually, I realized that our relationship wasn’t as important to him as it was to me. I cut contact completely. It was very hurtful, and I went through a grieving process, but the anxiety he was putting me through was worse. I felt such a sense of betrayal.
- Watch their actions – Someone that really cares about you will genuinely try not to cross your boundary. They may slip up at some point, but they will make amends. Words don’t matter. Someone can tell you they will no longer cross your boundary, but watch their actions. How are they behaving? That is the real truth teller.
You Deserve Safety and Respect
When it comes right down to it, any boundary you decide to set, is to help you feel safe and respected. You deserve peace and happiness. The people in your life that deny you that, are not worth your time and attention. Healthy, loving people will respect you more for setting boundaries. Your relationship with these people will grow stronger. You always have the right to reverse a boundary down the road, if you choose.
Download my free Healthy Boundaries E-book and video here.
For more support with boundaries, join my free Facebook group, Rebooting Health For Empaths and Highly Sensitive Women, or see my resources here.