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When You Can’t Establish Healthy Boundaries

What happens when we can’t establish healthy boundaries? I saw an image on Facebook that says: “A lack of boundaries often invites a lack of respect.” The post resonated with me, and I guess the same for several of my Facebook friends who shared it.  

But what is a boundary? Properties have boundaries to separate one’s ownership from the rest. Our skins serve as boundaries to separate our internal organs from foreign objects. Boundaries serve as demarcation. 

 “The mechanism for building our wills is called a boundary. What we mean by the term boundary is that which distinguishes one person from another. It is that which sets him apart. Just as we can tell property lines of ownership by legal boundaries, in the same way, spiritual and emotional boundaries exist to show us what is “mine” and what is “not mine.” (Cloud, et. al, 2011)

But I believe that the seeming lack of respect, as the Facebook image says, is not the only problem a lack of boundary invites.

You can’t decide for yourself

When we can’t establish boundaries, we tend to be dependent on the opinion of others. We solicit inputs. We are waiting for their response. It is hard for us to take the first step because we think we are not capable of deciding on our own. We have allowed people to control us so that we can no longer function independently. 

You are often tired for no reason

When you work on your dreams and goals, you find a well of energy and passion that drives you. However, when people intrude on your boundaries, they exhaust all your energies because you often find yourself doing things that they want you to do. We accommodate their requests at the expense of our well-being. 

You hate letting other people down

When we can’t establish healthy boundaries, we’ll often find ourselves trying to please other people. It is both exhausting and frustrating because sooner or later we’ll realize that we can never please everyone. They will have something to say no matter the effort we exert in things we do. 

You are often taken advantage

Some people, when they find that you are willing to help them with all abandon, will try to suck the life out of you in the most obvious or subtle ways. They will take advantage. These toxic people don’t care about how you feel as long as they get what they want from you. Worse, when you fail to meet their expectations, you may end up getting the blame. 

You doubt the things you can do

When your life revolves around people who disregard your boundary, you will base your worth and capacity on what they say about you. People gaslight you. People mock you. You will be the antagonist in their story. Soon, it might affect your capacity to reason about yourself, and your ability to dream and pursue your goals. 

Boundaries are important. Learn to say no. Let me share this excerpt from Unlocking Your Family Patterns

The word no is a boundary. When we say “no,” we are keeping something out, perhaps an unwanted obligation or a demand on our time or money that would be debilitating. When we use the word no skillfully and without fear or guilt, we help to define and protect ourselves. Using no is like developing a muscle. The skill improves with practice. The “no muscle” takes a great deal of time to mature, and it is susceptible to injury, particularly as we are growing up in our families of origin. 

This doesn’t mean that we have to shut ourselves off from others. No, we have to take care of them as much as we can and help them in their time of need. But in the same way that parents should take care of themselves first rather than attend to their children during turbulences in an airplane, we too should take care of ourselves before we can give our best to people. Let us strive to establish healthy boundaries. It’s our right in the first place. 

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