My Experience

Setting Boundaries and Learning to Grow

I’ve always been good at setting boundaries. It’s one of the first things I learned in therapy, way back when. It can be difficult to learn what is a boundary and what is selfish. When I was taught about boundaries, it was about discovering what you can handle. Stepping back and asking yourself, is this my emotion? What emotions belong to another individual? As I grew with this concept it continued to develop. I learned that indulging others for fear of their anger was not acting in my own best interest. In a general sense, setting boundaries has helped shape me as a person.

When I was young, I struggled to understand who to trust. I often shared too much with too many people. This led to being scorn by people I thought were my friend. This is a natural learning lesson but my brain went the opposite direction. Suddenly, I didn’t want to share anything. I would designate certain people as my confidant and they would get an information dump. All of my thoughts, feelings and emotions would fall to them. I will admit, this is still how I function but I’m actively working on it. This is when I started to set other people’s boundaries. Inevitably, I started running into problems. Setting boundaries is a skill, like anything. I feel proud and confident in my ability to set boundaries so naturally I spread that gift onto my loved ones. This is completely dysfunctional and ends terribly in practice. 

I started setting boundaries for others because I started to see a pattern of explosion. Shockingly, I would talk too much about one subject or too much in general and I would get scolded for consuming time dwelling on one thing. I need to talk things out, for the people who I talk to this can be a lot. I tend to talk in my car if I’m working through a problem, I can’t discover what is bothering me unless I ramble for a while. I’m trying to say that the explosion is somewhat warranted. However, the explosion, coupled with my past led me once again to not wanting to share my feelings with people. This was painful because I wanted to feel heard and validated. Two things were occurring, I needed to find a way to validate myself. Also, I needed to find a way to get my confidants to set their own boundaries. 

Naturally, I started with myself first. It seemed easier. I realized that if I continued to rely on others to validate my feelings, it would lead to unhappiness. I would constantly be seeking reassurance. So, I sat with feeling invalidated and talked out (to myself) why I made certain choices. I explained why I felt these were the right decisions. It’s nice to talk to yourself because shockingly you’re very agreeable. Sitting in a place of invalidation was the most difficult when it came to setting boundaries that were met with anger. If I don’t feel that something is safe or will end well, I don’t indulge the individual and I set a boundary. When this confronted with name calling and character questioning, I feel hurt. Over time, I gained confidence in my choices. Some days I struggle to feel vindicated in my choices but I made the right choice for me and that’s all I can do. 

Now, I had to address setting other people’s boundaries. I knew I had to stop because it didn’t serve me. I started to back off the conversation early and became more socially aware. I was left questioning whether I could’ve talked more. I felt like I had to stop talking for fear of resentment. I am fine with being told the conversation is too much but I won’t know unless I’m told. I decided to face this problem head on. I went to the source and explained my frustration. The situation isn’t perfect but it’s moving in the right direction and at the end of the day, that’s all I can ask for. 

Overall, I find boundaries to be one of the most helpful tools I have. I’ve been told in the past that my boundaries are too harsh. My therapist tells me that if you’re boundaries aren’t firm, they’re not boundaries. I agree with that. No, it may not be pleasant on the other side, it may feel aggravating and selfish but that’s not my intent. This is a way to protect my mental health. In order to grow, we need to adapt and allow ourselves to flourish. If you’re constantly bogged down by others needs, you’re out of energy to take care of yourself. Like I experienced, no one can set your boundaries for you. Most people benefit from others having no boundaries. This is a great learning opportunity. I find it helpful to reflect and move forward taking the most valuable information with me. It’s important to remember that even when met with anger or hostility you have to do what’s best for you. If you’re questioning your boundaries, phone a friend. Gather insight and move forward from there, but in my experience, your gut is probably right.

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