Many of us who have experienced childhood trauma struggle with boundaries. Having healthy boundaries can be a struggle if you grew up in a family where your boundaries where not respected and were shamed, made wrong, invalidated, or dismissed.
You may have experienced the withdrawal of love, and therefore, were taught that having boundaries was not okay and that they could even result in losing love and approval. We can end up carrying these fears and negative beliefs about our right to have boundaries into adulthood/adult relationships, resulting in self abandonment.
Boundaries are what delineates you from someone else. They are based on your values, preferences, and comfort level with anything. They arise from how things feel to you (regardless of anyone else’s opinion of it). Yet, learning how to identify and express our boundaries is vital to our well being and to having happy, healthy, fulfilling relationships. Here’s how you can identify boundaries and communicate them :
- Having healthy boundaries can be a struggle if you grew up in a family where your boundaries were not respected and were shamed, made wrong, invalidated, or dismissed – You may have experienced the withdrawal of love and, therefore, were taught that having boundaries was not okay and that they could even result in losing love and approval. When we are children, we depend on our parents for our survival, a lack of boundaries can be a natural response for survival. We can end of carrying these fears and negative beliefs about our right to have boundaries into adulthood/adult relationships, resulting in self-abandonment.
- Boundaries come from your unique to you feelings of comfort or discomfort, personal preferences and values – A boundary violation can be identified when something happens that impinges on your physical and/or emotional well-being. A place to express a boundary is any place that you don’t feel good about someone’s treatment of you. It could be how they are speaking to you (e.g. yelling at you or speaking hurtfully). It could be that they are enriching beyond on what feels comfortable for you physically (e.g. touching you in ways that don’t feel comfortable).
- Boundaries are not about the other person, they are about you. You enforce boundaries not by trying to control others (“you have to”), but by expressing what works or doesn’t for you &, if necessary, removing yourself from the situation as a natural consequence if a boundary if not respected – e.g you can request someone to stop smoking but you cannot actually force them to stop smoking. You can, however, enforce a boundary by removing yourself from a situation where someone is smoking if you don’t like it.
- Stating a boundary looks like simply stating your preference :
– “I’m not ready for that level of physicality, I’d like to get to know you better first.”
– “I’m looking for a serious relationship, I’m not interested in casual dating/hooking up.”
– “I don’t feel comfortable with that kind of sexual talk. I’m an old fashioned girl who likes to be treated like a lady.”
If a boundary is respected, then no problem, this person has shown you they are safe for you. If it isn’t respected, that’s also information about them (not information about your worthiness of having that boundary). You don’t have to stay in a situation that doesn’t feel safe/respectful/good.
- Caveat : We also want to be careful that we aren’t enforcing boundaries from reactivity and defensiveness, but rather from our true values, needs, and preferences. – Boundaries aren’t meant to be a rigid wall that attacks/keeps everyone out because we can’t handle uncomfortable emotions/conversations. And they also aren’t meant to be so fluid as to be non-existent. Our boundaries delineate what we need to ensure our well-being, so we can be our best selves. Healing our wounds allows us to most easily see what our real healthy boundaries are and to express them in effective ways.
Our boundaries delineate what we need to ensure our well being, so we can be our best selves. Healing our wounds allows us to most easily see what our real healthy boundaries are and to express them in effective ways.