Thursday, June 30, 2011


Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and spiritual spaces between two individuals.

People with unhealthy boundaries say yes when they want to say no; internalize the success or failure of those closest to them, especially their life partners or their children; find themselves exhausted at the end of the day from caving to the whims and demands of others; often feel taken advantage of, used, and resentful.

People with unhealthy boundaries:

  • Have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and more concern for others than for themselves.
  • Have difficulty expressing negative feelings.
  • Isolate themselves and fear authority figures.
  • Seek approval from others and lose their own identities.
  • Are frightened by angry people and personal criticism.
  • View themselves as victims and tend to attract friendships and intimate relationships that feed that weakness.
  • Judge themselves harshly and have low self-esteem.
  • Fear abandonment and stay in unhealthy relationships due to this fear.
  • Feel guilty when they stand up for themselves.
  • Are prone to addiction.

Do you have healthy boundaries? Try this online quiz and find out.

I will admit that I answered "True" to far too many of those questions. The fact is I have struggled with boundary issues my entire adult life - especially in romantic relationships, where I have tended to be a chameleon, transforming myself into the person my partner wanted me to be and losing myself in the process - but also in personal and professional relationships: saying yes to the point of becoming completely overcommitted and overwhelmed, allowing others to take advantage of me, financially and otherwise, in the name of friendship or love, blaming myself for everyone else's problems.

I have made steady but slow progress during the ten years since my divorce; old habits die hard. Suddenly, though, my learning curve is improving rapidly. The simple act of writing down ten goals and reviewing them daily has been very empowering. My morning routine now consists of making coffee, rewriting my list of ten goals, meditating, writing my morning pages, and reviewing my to-do list. These activities get each day off to a positive start and help me keep my eye on the prize, so to speak. I have been more productive in every area of my life, procrastinating less and accomplishing more.

Best of all, my distance vision seems to be improved; now that I have a clearer picture of what I want, I am not about to engage in activities - or participate in relationships - that might stand stand in the way. It's going to be much easier to say no to activities that will draw me away from my chosen path. I am accepting responsibility for my own happiness; if others are unhappy, they have no one to blame except themselves. And if I am exhausted at the end of the day, it will be the good kind of tired.

Today I drew a line in the sand. I won't go into all the details, but it was the right thing to do. Now that I have done it once, I am hoping it will be easier next time.

Do you struggle with boundary issues? If so, what steps have you taken to deal with them?


carbiebash said...

Very good post Pam...Love your writing

carbiebash said...

By the way..carbiebash is my Google name..I am Barbara Rea Cash and a friend of yours on FB...also a fellow pianist that lives in Woodstock, Ga.

Julee J. Adams said...

Sounds like you needed to learn to set your boundaries and you're getting closer to where you need to be.

I learned in my 20s that not everyone was going to like me, not everyone would do what they promised and that I would have to say no and disagree, even though people would think less of me. But, I didn't have children to raise and didn't get married until I was almost 30.

You've had a lot of life lessons I've not learned yet and never will. Wish I could say something to make it easier, but we all have to find our own way. Happy travels and I'll send a jar of your favorite condiment if it will make the frog go down easier....

KendallGrey said...

Man, this post could not have been more timely for me. I had no idea that I had such a problem with boundaries. I answered yes to almost all the questions too.

Your goal setting and stick-to-it-tiveness is inspiring, Pam. I wish I had your discipline. I feel like I'm melting into the ground lately, losing my sense of self, worrying way too much about what everyone else thinks. Sometimes I wish I could just shut off the rest of the world with the click of a remote.

You are strong. You can do this, woman! Good luck. :-)

S.M. Carrière said...

I used to have boundary issues. It took a lot of introspection to figure out what was going on, and I'm slowly recovering from it!

It does get easier the more you mindfully practice respecting yourself.

Pam Asberry said...

Thank you, Barbara. You live so close to me; we should meet for lunch one of these days. It sounds like we would have a lot to talk about. I hope you will visit my blog again soon!

Pam Asberry said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Julee. I have been a pleaser since I was very young, got married too early, and somehow lost myself. Ten years post-divorce, I am FINALLY figuring out who I am and what I want. The best is yet to be!

Pam Asberry said...

Thanks, Kendall. Honestly, it's two steps forward and one step back for me. I get so tired! But I will never give up. And your support means more than you can imagine!

Pam Asberry said...

Good for you, S.M. I love the way you put that... "mindfully practice respecting yourself." That's it, in a nutshell. Continued progress with your boundaries!

SAIDFRAZ said...

you know, I've gotten much better about setting boundaries. Unfortunately I still struggle with feelings of guilt as a result of those boundaries. Maybe eventually I'll get it right!

Pam Asberry said...

The way I see it, Sherri, you're halfway there! :-)

Ninja Gal said...

Great post. I totally struggle with boundary issues! It is difficult for me to stay true to myself as well, and then I get upset with myself for not staying true. Thanks for this post.


Pam Asberry said...

I think a lot of women struggle with these issues, Darlene. We were taught to take care of others but not how to take care of ourselves. So don't beat up on yourself; just try to see the situation for what it is and vow to do better moving forward. We can support each other!