There are some people who are able to set boundaries, and there are others who are find it incredibly difficult. It wouldn’t matter whether one was able to set them if they were not important, but as they are a vital part of life, it is essential that one is able to.
One may be in a position where they have always had them, and this means that they may find it hard to relate to someone who hasn’t got them. Based on how they experience life, they might wonder why someone wouldn’t have them.
When it relates to someone who has never had boundaries, they might think that everyone experiences life as they do, or they might believe that other people have something they don’t. There is also chance that they will believe that it is possible for them to experience life differently.
However, with that aside for the time being, there is going to be big difference in how each person experiences life. One person is going to feel that is safe for them to be themselves and to listen to their needs and feelings, and the other person isn’t.
They are not going to feel as though it is safe for them to be themselves, and they will feel the need focus on other people’s needs and feelings. In this case, what is taking place within them is secondary and what is taking place externally is primary.
The Right Balance
This is not to say that the first person will ignore other people needs and feelings; what it means that they won’t ignore their own. There may be times when they have to overlook what is taking place within them, but it won’t be a way of life.
Yet, when one is focused on the needs and feelings of others, it is not going to be something that takes place from time to time; it will be a way of life. It is then not possible for one to behave like an individual; they are going to behave as though they are an extension of others.
One may come across as though they are only too happy to be there for others, and they may create the impression that nothing bothers them. In this case, they are seen as easy going and the perfect person who have around.
But although one may create the impression that everything is fine, this is unlikely to match up with what is taking place at a deeper level. If other people don’t see this side, it could come back to one’s need to please others.
This doesn’t mean that one will embrace how they feel; as they might be out of touch with how they feel. But if they were to listen to their feelings, they are going to end up feeling angry.
Yet, as they are walked over on a regular basis, it is perfectly normal for them to feel this way. Below the anger, they may feel hopeless and as though there is nothing they can do about what is taking place in their life.
This doesn’t mean that one won’t have moments where they will try to stand their ground and say no, for instance, but based on how they feel when they try to do this, they are unlikely to go any further. If they do stand their ground, the pain that they experience is likely to be even worse.
On one side, one will have the need to listen to themselves, and on the other, it is not possible for them to do this. What this means is that one is not working with themselves, they are working against themselves.
If one was to tune into their feelings, they may find that they end up feeling guilty whenever they have boundaries. And as they feel this way, they may come to the conclusion that it is not right for them to have them.
However, just because one feels guilty for having boundaries, it doesn’t mean that they are doing something wrong. If one’s feelings always reflected reality, this wouldn’t be the case.
What this is likely to show is that they have been conditioned to believe that it is wrong for them to listen to their own needs and feelings. This would have meant that one was trained to believe that other people’s needs and feelings were more important.
As one is an adult, it is going to be relatively easy for them to see how destructive this outlook is. However, this outlook would have been created when it wasn’t possible for them to see how destructive it was.
Not only that, this would have been a time where it wasn’t safe for them to do anything else. The reason for this is that this outlook is likely to have been developed during one’s childhood years.
During these early years, one would have been focused on doing everything they can please their caregiver/s. And based on the environment they grew up in, focusing on other people’s needs and feelings was what allowed them to survive.
Although they had to disconnect from themselves, it allowed them to fit into the family system. If they were to listen to themselves, they may have been abandoned and/or harmed.
Even though their early experiences were dysfunctional, it would have been what is familiar and therefore, what is safe. So years will have passed and as this is still what feels safe, they will continue to recreate the same system. As a child it would have been made up of other family members, but as an adult, it is going to include their friends and colleagues, for instance.
In order for one to no longer feel guilty and to listen to themselves, it will be important for them to grieve their unmet childhood needs. Through this process, one will be able to let go of their fear of being abandoned and harmed.
Another thing they will need to do is to question what they believe about putting their own needs and feelings first. The assistance of a therapist and/or a support group may be needed here.
Through their assistance, one will be given the support that they need to face the emotional pain within them. They will also provide the positive regard that one needs to develop a sense of self.
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Oliver JR Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.