While going from having no boundaries to trying to make some is not easy. I have learned so much and I never want to go back!
What is a boundary?
Per Wikipedia, “personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.” I figured since I have had no boundaries most of my life that I leave it up to something somewhat professional to give you a definition.
Boundaries are necessary in every type of relationship a person has. Work. Husband. Wife. Kids. Parents. Ourselves. We have to have that line that someone can not cross when it comes to how they talk to us or treat us. With work, you can have a boss that is a rule breaker and likes to get you to work after hours without pay. He is intimidating. Without boundaries you will be his slave to unpaid, after hours work. But with boundaries you will have the confidence to stand up for yourself and not do what you know is against company policy. With a spouse, if you do not have boundaries and one is more demanding of the other, then the one with no boundaries will begin to feel inferior and burdened by the overbearing spouse. Their voice will feel like it is dwindling in the relationship because you didn’t respond appropriately when he crossed the line.
Why did I not have boundaries?
For some reason, I lived my life until the ripe age of 40 with very few boundaries. I let almost every person in my life tell me what to do, how to act, what to believe, and how I should live my life. To those people, they didn’t realize it and most of them meant no harm. They didn’t even realize what they were doing. It is inherent that we push to get what we want and if there is no resistance, then we get what we want and don’t stop.
I have asked myself many times why I had no boundaries. Where in life do we learn this? I believe and have learned through research that we begin to form our understanding of what boundaries are in our childhood. I read on someone else’s blog that “childhood relationships with primary caregivers” and “childhood social environments” are some of the earliest times in our lives that we begin to do this. As soon as I read this I have a feeling I know at least part of my problem. I was being abused at a young age so that skewed my perception of my relationships with people who were supposed to care for me. And because I was not doing good in that area, I feel that those feelings of awkwardness radiated out to those social environments. If a person can’t set up boundaries with people that are close to them, how are we supposed to be able to set them up with people outside that circle.
The abuse I went through violated both physical boundaries and mental boundaries. To start out, as a child, having no clear boundaries is part of the reason I believe that I went through a string of bad relationships. To be a bad person is their free will, but to accept it and put up with it has everything to do with boundaries. I am not an educated expert on this, but I have enough life experience to reflect back on it and to be able to say that. By time I started dating I had low self esteem about myself. My first real boyfriend was probably the only one that I set boundaries with. He cheated on me and I dumped him. I moved on. But after that it was one crazy guy after another.
My ex husband was very over powering and treated me in such a way that made me feel demeaned. He treated me and my kids in a way that a husband and father shouldn’t and I didn’t do enough, soon enough to put a stop to it. I didn’t have boundaries. I let him treat me badly because I didn’t know how to stand up for myself. I didn’t have those boundaries to let him know that he crossed the line.
Slowly Building Those Boundaries
Over the last couple of years I am starting to set those boundaries. I am starting to voice who I am and with kindness of course, letting people know who I am, what I want, and what I will no longer put up with. It is very hard to start at such a late time in life doing this so it is very hard. In the beginning I often felt selfish. I was so used to worrying about what others felt about me. About their needs. It felt foreign to worry about my own needs for a change. I am still building, but the walls are getting bigger and bigger. In fact, setting boundaries makes me a better person. I am emotionally and mentally less drained. Physically as well.
I have a side baking business. I loved the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment, but it came to the point that the stress it was causing was too much. I was scared to let my customers down, but I knew that I am of no good to them if I burn out and quit for good. Last December, right before Christmas, I announced that I was shutting my business down for a long hiatus in order to do some self care and spend more time with my kids. It’s the best thing I could have done for myself. For the first 6 months I couldn’t fathom ever picking up another piping bag or making another batch of icing. But, as I have taken care of myself, I feel that desire starting to every so slowly burn again. It’s still going to be another 5 or 6 months before I get going again, but I know I will get back to it.
It is an uphill battle, but I am willing to take it. The rewards are already visible. I am building my self-confidence. I am learning to love myself all over again. I am learning that it is OK to say NO. It is OK to tell people how I feel so long as I do it through a kind heart and have compassion for others feelings. Doesn’t mean I have to turn into a negative person, in fact I believe that people have a bit MORE respect for me because I am setting those boundaries. It’s hard for those around me sometimes. They are used to the Kristi that would just say OK and do it without question, but once they learn that I am not going to be that pushover anymore, they eventually get on board.
Have you ever battled with the lack of boundaries? Have you overcome it? How did you finally set that boundary? I would love to hear your story!