As stated before, many people never learned to set healthy boundaries due to various reasons. Some of us have grown up in a dysfunctional family, others have experiences of past traumas that disconnected us from our boundaries. While these experiences are painful, we can learn to reconnect with our boundaries and establish healthy ones. First, we need to identify where we are at when it comes to setting boundaries. This allows us to choose which areas we want to improve on.
Common signs of entangled boundaries
Having healthy boundaries is a skill that requires awareness, practice and self-reflections. Having entangled boundaries is often a result of past trauma or painful experiences that disconnected us from our boundaries. Please note that it doesn't mean that there is something wrong with you. It just means that there is an area where it would useful to grow.
The following list shows common symptoms of entangled boundaries. We have entangled boundaries if we:
- don’t say no out of fear, guilt, or need for approval
- feel angry, abandoned, or rejected if somebody says no to us
- are in relationships that have an imbalance of giving and receiving (either we constantly giving more or we constantly receive receiving more)
- spend our time and energy helping others and we neglect our own needs and wants.
- take on other people’s problems as our own.
- take responsibility for how others feel or we give others responsibility for how we feel
- have a high tolerance of boundary violations and disrespect
- have difficulty identifying and asking for what we want and need
- value other people’s opinion or feelings more than our own
- compromise our values and beliefs to please others or avoid conflict
- share intimate information before we have established a mutually trusting and sharing relationship
If you look at this list, which areas do resonate with you?
What would you like to improve on?
How could you do this?
Common signs of healthy boundaries
While the previous list shows where our boundaries need some improvement, here’s a list of the signs that show that we have healthy boundaries.
We have healthy boundaries if we:
- feel comfortable saying no.
- are ok if others say no to us.
- have a strong sense of our identity.
- our relationships have a balance of giving and receiving and if there is reciprocity.
- feel comfortable putting ourselves first.
- can discern what issues are ours and what issues belong to the other person.
- listen to another person’s problem, have empathy but we don’t need to fix them.
- don’t tolerate boundary violation and disrespect.
- communicate our needs and wants assertively even if we recognize that we might be turned down. We can make requests and not demands.
- commit to exploring and nurturing our full potential.
- take responsibility for our happiness and our emotions. We realize that others are responsible for their emotions and happiness.
- value our opinion as much as the opinion of others. We can embrace our differences and able to agree to disagree. We share power and negotiate win-win solutions.
- don’t compromise our values or integrity even if we might risk rejection.
- share information slowly in a mutually trusting and sharing relationship.
On a scale from 0 to 10, how would you score for each of these areas? What would you like to improve on? How could you do this?
Healthy boundaries require personal growth
Learning to set healthy boundaries is a process. Dependent on what happened to us in the past, it has various levels of complexity. Have self-compassion in this process. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Focus on one area you would like to improve upon. Revisit the list later on and re-evaluate your boundaries. Overtime, your boundaries will become stronger in every area.
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