I’m going to nerd out a bit and talk about my favorite topic: boundaries! I know that sounds ridiculous, but I had never heard of boundaries prior to becoming a therapist. I’ve come to love boundaries and, as something that has helped me so much, boundaries happen to be my fave discussion!
I used to have really horrible boundaries. I let people walk all over me, and I was constantly giving and giving… and giving. It felt like I didn’t have strong connections with family and friends, and I felt alone. It was awful feeling like I was such a great friend to everyone, but that no one was there for me.
When I learned this word “boundaries,” the concept behind it seemed so foreign and so, well… mean! Horrible, even! I remember starting to set boundaries and feeling so crappy. I felt like I was the worst person in the world. Family got mad. Friends got mad. So what was the point? Boundaries made me feel even more alone because everyone was mad at me!!
That is when I learned that people will treat you how you let them treat you. I had let everyone take me for granted in the past. So when I stopped that, it was a shock to them. That’s why they responded with anger.
Types of Boundaries
Personally, I had porous boundaries. These boundaries are like a free flowing river with zero filtration. Having porous boundaries drowns people and makes them feel like they are constantly giving and not getting much in return. People with this type of boundaries feel like they are getting walked all over.
Another type of boundary is rigid boundaries. These boundaries also affect relationships by creating a divide between people. They are like a dam in the river that completely stops the water from flowing and starves the other side. This practice also starves the boundary-holder from creating meaningful connections and relationships with people, which can lead to them feeling like no one understands or gets them. This adds to those feelings of loneliness.
Healthy boundaries are what we should aim for. We need to set limits and stand up for our values and beliefs, but still be open enough to lean on people and connect in a meaningful way. We should equally give to others as we receive. This is when we will feel happiest and like we have strong connections.
Story Time Pt. 2
So back to my little story. Once I continued enforcing my boundaries, I did lose some friendships. The relationships I didn’t lose, including family, are much better relationships now. And to be honest — the friendships I did lose, I was okay losing. If those people had really been there for me, they would have been okay with my boundaries. The connections I have now that I set healthy boundaries are better than any I have ever had.
Tools for Growth
Boundaries aren’t always perfect. Sometimes we realize we have a porous or rigid boundary in certain moments. What is important is recognizing when this happens so we can adjust it accordingly.
I know boundaries are new to many, so I’ve included some helpful and printable tools you can use to get some ideas of what boundaries look like and how to talk about them:
Once you learn about how to set boundaries, you can check out our blog post How to Enforce Boundaries for further help in maintaining them. And beyond that, Dawn Institute is always here to aid you in your mental health journey. We offer trainings, including Healing Trauma. Healing Me. that will teach the basics of trauma and resources for how to deal with the symptoms. Check out our website for more information or reach out for services today!