Why it is important to know how to set and enforce boundaries

If you have always been characterized as a “nice girl” it may be really  hard to set boundaries so you don’t get walked all over by others. If your parents taught you that kindness was a virtue and not asserting yourself was bad, you may have grown up to be a “people pleaser”. Unfortunately, many people with BPD fall into this category and they please and they please and they please until their anger and resentment goes from a simmer to a boil and then boils over and no one understands why they are suddenly so angry — they have always been so nice. If you grew up like this it may have been almost impossible for you to get honest feedback from other people  because the only feedback you would get was dependent on how you “served” others. Breaking out of that behavior pattern can be difficult because people in your sphere will not like it.

Not having any personal boundaries means people will take advantage of you

Taking the first tentative step toward learning how to put yourself above other people can be scary, to say the least.But when you have no personal boundaries or are not able to enforce the ones you do have, people will take advantage of you. You may find that your co-workers will tend to saddle you with their overflow work or that men you dated years ago keep turning up asking you to do things like their laundry or pick up their dry cleaning.  You probably don’t want to say no because you don’t want to hurt their feelings or risk them becoming angry at you. So, you stuff your resentment and just do it. Again and again.When we set boundaries we are setting limits on what we will do for other people, the things that are acceptable to us or unacceptable. And you will find that the people who get “angry” when you try to set a boundary with them are precisely the ones who need it the most.

Being able to set personal boundaries requires a goo sense of self-worth

Figuring out what your boundaries are requires us to have a sense of healthy self-esteem and a good sense of our own self-worth. This is why I say that your level of self-esteem will effect every choice you make in your life. If you do things for other people because you want them to like you (and that is the fundamental basis of why we people please) then you will always come up with the short end of the stick. Having good self-worth allows you to make choices based upon your other opinions and thoughts and values which are not contingent on how the other person’s opinion of you might change based on your decision. It affirms to you that you are allowed to have your own opinions, thoughts and values which are uniquely your own in the same way that other people are allowed to have theirs. It allows you the privilege of taking your own time away from other people without feeling guilty so you can pursue your own interests. It gives you the freedom to develop your own spiritual life which is not dependent on what other people believe and ALL this is what makes you a whole, healthy and happy person.Being able to determine your boundaries and then setting them are two completely different processes.

Most people have to learn how to set a boundary.

This is where most people usually stumble. This is where modeling the behavior other people plays such an important role and this is why it is so difficult for people who grew up in households where they were not allowed to have any personal boundaries because as I like to say, “If your parents didn’t know how to make pasta, they could not teach YOU how to make pasta.”

So when it comes to figuring out what your boundaries are look at these three things:

  1. Assess your limits. This means taking a good hard look at all the aspects of your life by looking at your past experiences. Look at the times where you felt taken advantage of. How did that manifest itself? What was our reaction? How did you address the issue? Creating a “boundary chart” can help you visualize it — fill in the things you feel comfortable with and the things that make you feel resentful.

  2. Learn how to practice assertiveness. There are many resources which can be found online. I teach assertiveness skills to people for a nominal cost. Find someone you trust to practice your new skills with and then after a while, practice them out in the real world. Start with people you have no emotional investment with — like the clerk at the grocery store. In this case, the old saying, “Practice makes perfect,” is really true.

  3. Learn how to ignore people’s requests. One of the rules of assertiveness is that you can choose not to be assertive. There is nothing wrong with choosing to avoid confrontation. We all do it. You have to learn how to choose your battles carefully.