I had no idea what a boundary was until I entered rehab. Once I learned what it was, I came to realize that many people had crossed my boundaries. However, I also learned I had crossed many people’s boundaries as well.
The definition of a boundary is “a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.” A lot of people have boundaries that they set for themselves, whether it be being spoken to in a certain way or having someone get too close to you. We all have our boundaries; some are conscious choices, other are simply established as one matures over time. Essentially, boundaries establish (in some way) what we are comfortable with and what we are not.
The problem I frequently have is that I make these boundaries, then I don’t stick to them. I am such a people pleaser that if someone crosses my boundaries, I sometimes allow them to walk all over me because I don’t want to hurt their feelings. I don’t want to come across as a bitch. Essentially, that’s me somehow being more comfortable with my own emotional pain, in order to spare another’s feelings. Put that way it sounds crazy, I know. But in actual fact, it isn’t. This isn’t a good thing because at the end of the night I’m stuck with all the discomfort and yucky feelings of disrespecting myself.
I grew up in a house where people just came and went as they pleased. I began to think that’s how everyone lived their lives. People came into our home whenever they wanted and basically said whatever they wanted. It wasn’t that this was bad, I grew up in a welcoming home. And sometimes, maybe too welcoming and permissive. But I also grew up thinking this was the norm, which meant by my own actions, I have no doubt crossed many boundaries of other’s as well.
This is interesting to me because the longer I have stayed sober, the more I have learned what my boundaries really are. I used to think that I loved having people in my personal space and always being surrounded by people, but I really don’t. I need my alone time. My home is my private place and there are very few people I feel comfortable having over.
I would like to say I have gotten better at sticking to my boundaries, but that would be a lie. It’s more accurate to say I have gotten better at being more aware of what my boundaries really are and the feelings I have when my boundaries are crossed. So, it’s a start! Its better then where I was before.
My people pleasing is something I need to get over. Once I master that I feel like my boundaries will be way easier to keep. There is nothing wrong with respecting yourself, if someone is crossing your boundary and you let them know in a nice way that your uncomfortable. If they take it as you being a “bitch” then that’s their shit not yours. This is something I constantly have to remind myself of. In my mind, I’m like “Oh no! I can’t have someone think I am a bitch!” So, I go home and cry myself to sleep after they have crossed a boundary of mine. OK. Maybe I’m being a little dramatic here; but seriously, I can put myself through so much discomfort its crazy!
I first realized I had such an issue with boundaries when my counsellor did an exercise with me. She stood across the room from me and was like, “I’m going to walk closer and closer to you. When you feel uncomfortable just tell me to stop.” She took one step and asked if I was okay and I was like, yeah. She took another step and asked the same and I continued to say yes. She then was really close to me and asked if I was okay and I said yes. I kept telling her I was fine until she was pretty much face to face with me.
We then sat back down and she was like, “You were uncomfortable so long before I stopped.” She said my whole body tightened up and I stopped breathing but I was still telling her it was okay to come closer. I felt it too. I knew exactly what she was talking about, but I felt awkward telling her to stop. I felt awkward acknowledging what my body was comfortable with, let alone what it wasn’t comfortable with. Ahh! how bizarre is that?
I wanted to make a post about boundaries because I want other people to know they aren’t alone in how difficult it can be to respect themselves and the boundaries they set. I have talked to a few people about boundaries. Some are super good at keeping them and respecting themselves. Those are people I admire and I continually strive to live my life like that. Remember, boundaries are good reminders of what you value in yourself!
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” ~ Brene Brown