"God grant me the serenity... To accept the things I cannot change...
The courage to change the things I can... And the wisdom to know the difference"
The Serenity Prayer beautifully describes what it means to have healthy boundaries. With good boundaries, we understand that we cannot change anyone but ourselves. We seize on the courage to change what we can in our own lives, and let go of trying to change the lives of others. When we try to change others to meet our expectations, we are not showing them respect. Pushing others with our own ideas and opinions, when not asked for, violates their boundaries. When we practice healthy boundaries we show respect for ourselves, for others and are more capable of having healthy relationships.
A major focus of my work as a therapist has been to help individuals and couples understand, develop and implement healthy boundaries. Good boundaries help us stay out of co-dependent relationships and support us to live in the reality and truth of our lives with others. With good boundaries we don’t make up relationships. We do not spend our energy continuing the belief that if only that person would change then everything would be all right. Instead, we see relationships with others for what they are and act accordingly. With good boundaries, our lives become less tense and more loving.
We are not born knowing what healthy boundaries are. We must learn them from those around us. When we grow up in an unconditionally loving environment, where we were shown respect for our body, mind, sexuality, and spirituality, and were loved for the unique individual we are, then we were given the basic foundation for living with healthy boundaries. Sadly, for many of us, that type of nurturing environment was not what we grew up with. Consequently, we may not have developed self respect or respect for others that is vital for developing healthy boundaries. People with unhealthy boundaries are usually very decent people. In fact, most of us fit this description and don’t even know it. We find ourselves trying very hard to please and don’t understand why we are not being appreciated or why others seem upset with us a lot of the time. We see ourselves as one of the good guys, but others are not necessarily responding to us that way. There is often a tension in our relationships that we can’t explain or get a handle on. The only thing we know is that there is something wrong and we haven’t the foggiest notion of what that is. Not understanding our mixed or hurt feelings, we start again, trying harder and harder to please, repeating the same behaviors over and over again, thinking ‘this time’ we will get a different and better result. We can begin to feel like a victim, like “everybody’s always picking on me”. And that feeling can really confuse us and create depression and withdrawal.
The concepts of unhealthy boundaries and their effect on us are subtle and often difficult to understand. For that reason alone it is wise to seek a professional who can help you understand boundaries and guide you through the steps you may need to take to improve your boundaries with others.
Some signs of Unhealthy Boundaries:
- Talking on an intimate level on the first meeting and telling all.
- Falling in love with a new acquaintance on the first encounter
- Falling in love because they fall in love with you.
- Feeling overwhelmed by a person and unable to say no
- Acting on impulse, especially sexually
- Being sexual for a partner even when you don’t want to.
- Going against personal values or rights to please another
- Not noticing when someone else displays inappropriate boundaries
- Not noticing when someone invades your boundaries
- Not noticing when someone is inappropriate because they defend or justify their behavior
- Not noticing when someone’s defense or justification is a lie
- Denying the truth or not being assertive for fear of hurting someone else
- Touching or being touched by a person without asking permission
- Allowing someone to expect too much from you
- Letting someone else direct your life or define who you are
- Letting someone else describe your reality, your feelings…as if they know you better then you know yourself
- Doing more than your share and expecting little from someone else
- Believing that others should know what you need without you having to ask directly
- Self Abuse
- Tolerating abuse and addiction of self or significant others
Are you identifying with some of the statements above? If so, the time is right for you to look at your behavior in relation to healthy or unhealthy boundaries and learn how to respect yourself and others with healthy boundaries. Learning about what you can change and what you can’t, will help you get the emotional balance and freedom you need to enjoy your relationships. The journey to understanding healthy boundaries may be difficult, but it is well worth the trip.
Let me know if I can help you with this and give me a call.