Creating Boundaries is a Necessity
If you’re a sensitive person, creating boundaries is a necessity.
Sensitive and caring people don’t want to hurt or offend others. Unkindness is painful for us to experience, so we often assume that everyone else gets hurt as easily as we do. As a result, we have a tendency to show more concern for other people’s feelings than our own.
Highly sensitive people generally make an effort to be kind and respectful to others. So it’s a harsh blow to our nervous system when someone doesn’t treat us the same way. Doesn’t everyone follow some form of the Golden Rule – treat others as you want to be treated?
Because our emotional boundaries are soft and flexible, we’re more susceptible to unkindness or even the well-meaning intrusion of others into our emotional space. People who are more aggressive than we are may view our mild-mannered personality as an invitation to take control of interactions for their own benefit.
This is one of the most common issues faced by sensitive people.
If someone doesn’t treat us respectfully, we may hesitate to let them know. Most sensitive people don’t like confrontation. We may decide it’s easier to ignore their comments or behavior. If their slight wasn’t intentional, we don’t want to hurt their feelings. On the other hand, when we’re faced with someone who is often thoughtless, we don’t want to risk an argument. Either way, we’re likely to remain silent.
And then there’s our issue with authority. Maybe the aggressor is someone whose position gives them the right to tell us what to do, like the person we report to at work. Yet even when someone doesn’t have actual authority, we might bow to their stronger personality. If we have low self-esteem, we keep quiet. We don’t believe we’re a match for this powerful person, even when their power comes only from their confidence.
Speaking up feels uncomfortable because we rarely do it. We may not even know which words to use.
Another possible reason for giving away our power and authority comes from watching others abuse it. Examples are all around us.
I remember when I believed that being passive and submissive was good because anything else would be selfish and arrogant. I wanted to be likeable and seen as someone who wasn’t difficult and demanding. It was better to be quiet and let others be in control. At one time I was so agreeable that I even let my hairstylist decide what to do with my hair.
Submissiveness, even with friends and others who want the best for us, invites people to use our power for themselves. I offered it to them on a silver platter.
What I didn’t understand back then was that when I forfeited my right to make decisions, my opinions and feelings didn’t go away. I had just pushed them underground. That was something I learned as a child in order to protect myself. I didn’t know that my feelings were actually growing stronger in their hiding place. They were creating stress and tension that would eventually lead to illness and resentment. Some of those repressed feelings create so much pressure internally that they pop out at the wrong time and place.
If you’re feeling the same type of pressure, the solution is to release the beliefs that are feeding your silence. If those beliefs are negative, they usually result in low self-esteem. When you expose them and learn to view them from a new perspective, their power over you is reduced.
Your next step is to put new guidelines into place based on your desires and needs, not your fears. This doesn’t happen overnight. But as your inner space opens up, you fill it with a blueprint for how you want to live. There’s a natural rhythm and flow to life when you don’t have to fight repressed emotions.
Going with the flow doesn’t mean that we allow other people and situations to direct our lives while we just follow along to avoid conflict. It means that we live in harmony with our values and the greater good. In order to do that, we need boundaries.
How do you create and maintain boundaries?
First, know what boundaries are and what they are not.
- Boundaries are not solid walls. They are not barriers that keep all feelings and expressions and experiences in place. Barriers are precisely what you want to remove.
- Boundaries are guidelines that you create to protect yourself and to care for yourself. They allow for both giving and receiving.
- Boundaries can be adjusted with due caution when situations require it. Being too rigid can be just as harmful as being too relaxed. In fact, keeping tight control over some aspects of life is exactly how many people deal with uncertainty. While that may give them some sense of safety, it also keeps them trapped.
Second, believe you’re entitled to be treated well.
You have to believe you have the same right as everyone else to be treated with kindness and respect.
Truly believing that you’re worthy of respect and joy and love is something you have to feel deep inside. There’s no faking it. If you’re living with self-doubt, you’re living with the emergency brake on. It’s up to you to free yourself from limitations and fears surrounding your worthiness.
Third, be clear about your values.
You have to know what’s important to you so you can set guidelines for how you want to live. Your values are the foundation for creating your life code. They create the blueprint for how you experience your world.
Fourth, trust your inner message system.
Your gut will let you know when something isn’t right. Its messages are usually fairly strong as they are often physical. In contrast, the voice of your heart is more subtle. It’s easy to miss its messages if you’re preoccupied with surviving in your outer world.
If you ignore your inner voice, it will continue to send you messages until it gets your attention.
Fifth, act on your inner guidance.
When your inner voice tells you that someone has violated your values, you have choices. If confrontation is uncomfortable, compare that to your feelings when you silently accept someone’s disrespect. If you’re unsure how to tell someone that what they said or did isn’t acceptable, make it a priority to learn. Or maybe there’s an indirect way to express your disappointment.
Sixth, don’t doubt yourself.
Don’t shame yourself if you don’t feel ready to respond in the way you’d like. Give yourself time to learn and experiment. Whatever you choose to do in a particular situation will be right for you at the time, and that includes walking away or asking for help.
Seventh, boundaries also apply to what you’re available for.
Boundaries aren’t only necessary for what you want to keep out of your life. They also allow you to choose what you want to participate in. Here’s an example—you’re invited to an event and feel obligated to go, but you don’t want to. The solution? I suggest you weigh your options. Are the consequences of saying “no” greater than the satisfaction of doing something else that’s more appealing or needed at the time?
Eighth, boundaries require maintenance.
Balancing your needs with those of the people around you is like driving a car. You have to steer even when you’re on a stretch of straight, well-paved road. You’ll need flexibility so you can adapt to a variety of situations. Be aware also that your needs will change over time as will those of the people in your life.
In summary, boundaries are so important because they reflect how highly you value yourself.
If your sense of self is reined in because you feel unworthy and uncertain, other people will sense it. People who are more assertive or aggressive will take the lead in your interactions with them. Until you make your feelings known, they’ll most likely continue to do what they want.
On the other hand, when you know who you are, when you genuinely believe in your worthiness to both give and to receive and you’re living in harmony with your values, your energy will be much stronger. People will sense this as well. You’ll no longer sacrifice your needs in order to make life easier for everyone else. This doesn’t mean you’ll become inconsiderate. It means you’ve elevated your concern for yourself to the same level that you have for others.
If you don’t take responsivity for your wellbeing, who will?
About the Author
Karen Elena James is a health and wellness professional who combines her background in children’s welfare with her own personal growth experiences and research. She provides ideas and support to people on a path of self-discovery and emotional health. Her website is www.karenelenajames.com.