I am such a people pleaser – my whole life i’ve been the same. For the most part this is super positive. It helps me form closer bonds with people, it helps me to fulfill a side of me that really just wants to serve – and i love that side, really. I’m incredibly empathetic so for me this bond that i am able to create with someone helps build my energy.
However, it also even now gets me into a world of problems! I was on IG this morning and i saw a quote from this awesome book The Crimson Kiss by Cici.B. It says ‘...because I got tired of sitting around waiting for you to figure out if you fucking wanted me or not, so i smartened up… and left’.
I think this quote is relevant not only in romantic relationship but in other relationships too; work, life, friendships, family… you name it. All relationships need to go through the same thought pattern that we place so meticulously on working out where we are with partners.
I said this in my last blog but i’m going to say it again – the value that we place on ourselves sets the tone for every other relationship with have in our life. If we allow people to overshadow us in whatever context they are in our life, then we allow them to strip us of our self-esteem, our value and our comfort. It is essential that we create personal boundaries in order to provide an environment that is nurturing, comforting and supportive.
Boundaries are NOT an opportunity to seperate ourselves from people – what they do instead is provide us with a framework to understand more clearly what is and what is not acceptable behaviour from those we find in our life. It also helps protect our energy and time from those who are here just to suck a bit more out of us verses those who are here for the long-term.
It might be that your boundaries are super strong in some areas of your life and not in others. Here’s a little checklist that might help you when you think about the relationships in your life and whether your boundaries might be lacking.
- You feel drained every time you speak to them
- You feel immediately irritated or angry when they engage with you
- You come away from an interaction wondering – what the hell was that?
- You find yourself being waaaay too accommodating as a way to please them
- You have totally different conversations with them to other people in your life and find yourself often sharing too much about yourself
- You constantly feel the need to seek validation from them for your actions
- You feel like you need to be a different version of yourself when you engage with them
So what can we do when we think of a relationship we have where our boundaries are not that strong?
The first thing is to think about a relationship where we have suitable boundaries in place? Here is an example that’s easy to think about…
You’re at work – you have a team of people that you work with. They are a lovely bunch of people – so you find yourself chatting away to them about all sorts of things during the day – you laugh and joke but you are able to go into meetings with them and function as a colleague and get your job done. You can still go to the pub for a drink on a Friday night but nothing (well usually!) happens where lines are crossed where you feel that you are then unable to go into work the next day because you overshared or did something embarrassing. Or if you did – then you know that no matter what, your relationship is such that it was still appropriate.
What is it about this relationship that has enabled you to set clear boundaries?
- You know your identity when it comes to your position
- You are clear about who and who cannot be trusted with information that you share with them
- You clearly understand the environment for which you have developed this relationship
- You know what is expected of you and your colleagues know what is expected of them – regardless of the situation, there is still a clear structure to your relationship
Now let’s think about an example where the boundaries may start to feel a little blurred.
You have a friend in your life – you’ve known them forever. You find yourself chatting away to them about all sorts of things – partners, hobbies, highs and lows in your life. For the most part this is a completely reciprical relationship – you get back what you put in. But sometimes, you feel like you aren’t getting the same back – perhaps there’s a bit of judgement there, which sometimes can make you feel confused about the nature of your relationship. Perhaps there’s an incident you can think of where you felt invalidated or unsure of yourself. So you find yourself doing the same things but with a tint of – why am i sharing this? Why have you responded like this? You begin to feel a little insecure.
What is it about this relationship that has made you feel like your boundaries have become a little blurred?
- The relationship has started off being reciprical – you feel nutured and supported and cared for
- However, over time you have started to feel like things are becoming one way
- Your identity is being called into question – why are they acting like this? Why am i now acting like this? What have i done?
- The environment in which your friendship has blossomed is now feeling a little unsure
- Things are still good for the most part so why is there still a lingering question of what’s going on?
Now, finally let’s think of an example where the boundaries are gone
You have always had a close relationship with your family when you were younger. However, you have always felt a need to step up to expectations set by your family. As you get older you start to settle into the life that you want – however, you are aware that there are constant questions about what you are doing from your family. You still feel this need from when you were younger to please your parents so you call into question what you are doing and seek to make changes that may not be in the best interest of your life or the life you choose to share with others. You find yourself withdrawing from your family, but when you see each other – you find yourself frustrated with these questions, you find yourself telling them stories about elements of your life that they know they will approve of etc etc etc.
So what is it about this example that has made you feel like you have no boundaries?
- Your identity is wrapped up in someone elses version of you
- The envrionment in which you started this relationship has now changed and you do not feel that is is acceptable to others
- You constantly seek validation for a life that you have created
- You are constantly seeking the wrong answers to the wrong questions being asked
- You feel fearful that if you step out and say ‘this doesn’t serve me’ that you will be rejected for who you are.
Boundaries start and end with you. You must fully understand who you are in order to create boundaries with people that serve you. They must at the centre of is – be what YOU chose them to be, not others. There are of course going to be relationships where you need a smaller boundary than others – for example with friendships. We all have a friend who rocks up 45 minutes late for every coffee/dinner that we organise with them. But as long as you know this you can set a note in your head of ‘ok X is going to be late so i’ll take a book with me while i wait’. It’s not about immediately dismissing people out of hat, but it’s a chance for you to examine the relationships you have and say – am i ok with this? Does this make me happy? Once they rock up to the date we’ve set do i have a good time, do i feel fulfilled?
I think something important to think about here is – why do people act the way that they do? Here are some examples coupled with a why and a suggestion on how you can wrap your head around it. Obviously you are your own person so the answers might vary in your case!
- You work with a senior member of staff – they constantly sit there and stare at you when you go into meetings so you find yourself rattling off a thousand one things just to fill the silence. WHY? They want you to feel inferior to them, they want you to feel uncomfortable as this plays with their ego. HELP don’t engage with them? Ask them some questions too or just get straight down to business!
- Your friend is being judgemental when you start to tell them things – instead of being supportive or asking you questions about why you’ve done what you did, they make you feel stupid. WHY? Perhaps they have something going on in their life that makes them feel jealously over what you’re doing. Perhaps they’ve had a shit day and need to let off some steam. Maybe it’s the way they are saying it rather than what they are saying – as we all needs friends who call us out on our shit! HELP – ask them about it. Make sure they’re ok. Check yourself – do i actually really need to hear this information but i’m not ready to. Maybe and this is perfectly ok too – maybe it’s time to let that friendship go
- Your family are being judgemental and unsupportive of your life – they constantly sound disapproving, unwelcome and unsure. WHY? Family situations are a really tricky thing – we are brought up beliving A+B=C and we go along with it because when you’re young they are our teachers. However, when you get older you start to find out that C is infact maybe D or E or maybe even Z and for your family unit this can be very difficult to wrap their heads around. Perhaps they have an idea for your life and you aren’t doing it! Perhaps their behaviour is wrapped up in so many things that they themselves aren’t willing to explore. HELP check yourself that your actions are actually serving you – because sometimes especially in negative situations it’s very hard to take a step back and analyse that for ourselves. However, if you know you’re happy and you’re doing what sets your heart on fire then try and talk to them about it. Share with them the positive things in your life. Learn how to communicate with them in a way that stops them questionning everything you say to them!
Remember, remember the importance of saying ‘no’, ‘this doesn’t serve me’ and think about what situations you feel you need to say that in – these are your first priority areas.
I have a worksheet that you can work through if you would like to – just drop me an email and i will send it to you. But here are a few things to think about when it comes to setting healthy boundaries.
- What behaviour do you expect from people around you? Are these expectations being met?
- What behaviour do you exhibit when you are around the people in your life? Does this behaviour serve you always? If it doesn’t you need to think about how you can make adjustments
- Can you always expect a certain level of behaviour from those in your life? If not, ask yourself why and also if you are happy with that. As i said at the start it is not an exercise to just cut people out of your life – but instead a way to examine your relationships and think – am i ok with this? And if you are, then you need to do the work to ensure that you are suitably protected when you see/speak to them as to not let it affect you
- Be responsible for your reactions to people – this is perhaps quite difficult but as i said in my blog ‘A bit of positivity’ you are in charge of your life, if you are reacting to something negatively then it is up to you to change it
- Expect difficult conversations if you choose to call people out on their actions – it is uncomfortable for people to be made aware of their behaviour so make sure if you start to engage that you take a lot of care and get support from those around you or a therapist or counsellor.
Creating healthy boundaries takes a lot of work, but it is such a fruitful exercise. If you would like to start to work through your boundaries then please do get in touch for a free worksheet today!
Art is by Zoe Gilbertson – found on @pinterest