Do you have boundary issues? For many people setting boundaries is more uncomfortable than enduring the pain of getting disrespected or walked all over. The desire to please and the ensuing fear of rejection can thwart any efforts to speak up, push back and stand up for oneself. However, the challenge with boundaries isn’t only how to enforce them, but also to recognize when they are invaded. There are three ways in which your boundaries can be breached.
The first and most direct one is, when people simply disregard your limits. A part from physical and verbal abuse, there are many less aggressive ways in which others, consciously or unconsciously, can step across your boundaries. For example, some people don’t accept your “no“ for an answer; they continue to bombard you with probing questions, although you indicate that your uncomfortable answering them. Others assume that you are always available for them and ignore your need for privacy. Or you may have encountered those, who expect you to fulfill their needs and if you don’t punish you with rejection and blame. You know that your boundaries have been aggressively broken, when you feel small and powerless.
The second more subtle boundary invasion occurs when people don’t accept you and the choices you are making. Let’s say, you just start feeling good about the positive changes you have been making, but your family seems to prefer the “old” you. Or your excitement about your new interest gets squashed by your colleague’s eye-roll. And when you get together with your friends, they usually get a kick out of making fun of you, no matter how embarrassed you become. These subtle ways in which boundaries get overstepped often hurt the most and leave you feeling insecure and ashamed of yourself.
The third breakdown of your boundaries occurs purely on an emotional and energetic level. Perhaps you routinely feel overwhelmed and drained after going to the mall or a social gathering. A colleague having a bad day can leave you feeling deflated and depressed as well. Or you find yourself still thinking about work on Saturday morning, because a difficult conversation with a client from a few days ago is still weighing on you. If you think about yourself as being sensitive, you are probably familiar with this form of boundary breakdown. You tend to absorb and become entangled with the emotions and energies of others and thus lose touch with your center. As result you feel easily overwhelmed and unsafe in the outside world.
But no matter how your boundaries get invaded, your natural reaction may have been to either attack or avoid those, who crossed them. However, are confrontation or retreat really the best ways to strengthen your boundaries? Let’s take your health as an analogy; the most effective way to avoid getting a cold isn’t chasing bugs with disinfectants or stop leaving the house, but to strengthen your immune system.