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?