Boundaries are an essential part of the trauma recovery process, because they increase our feelings of safety and self-worth. Difficulty with setting boundaries can occur if in childhood we weren’t given the chance to express ourselves, or we followed the views of parents and authority figures. For example being told to “be good”, or “be nice”, or “stop being difficult” all teach us to meet the demands made on us and to shut down the emotions and bodily sensations that come up for us.
If you find it difficult to set boundaries, it is likely that you feel that if you please others they will like you, love you, or give you approval. Over time people pleasing consistently leaves your own need’s unmet, and you eventually feel drained, resentful and angry.
How often have you gone along with something even when you haven’t really wanted to, but didn’t want to make a scene? Do you avoid conflict, tolerate abusive behaviours, or find it difficult to stand up for yourself?
Once you learn how to establish boundaries you learn how to be who you really are, because boundaries help you to be more intuitive, they protect you and provide the necessary foundation for every relationship you have. Boundaries protect you from what feels inappropriate, unacceptable or inauthentic and they help you to define your wants and needs to establish safe limits.
Here are some ways to help you identify if you are people pleasing:
- You find it difficult to say “no” to things even when you don’t want to do it
- Saying “yes” to things and regretting it later or feeling resentful
- Feeling pressured to be nice, cheerful or accommodating at all times
- Saying that you are fine when you are not
- Disappointing others is too uncomfortable
- Going along with things just to keep the peace and avoid conflict
- Overextending yourself and always being busy
- Always apologising because you don’t want others to be upset with you
- Not standing up for yourself when people are disrespecting you
- Believing that the more selfless you are, the more love you will receive
- Repeatedly forgiving people who refuse to change
- Taking on more than you can handle even when you are tired/burnt out
- Not expressing your feelings when you are upset
- Always being a support system and endlessly giving to others
- Not being available for others whenever they need you, fills you with guilt and shame
Setting boundaries is like drawing a line of how people access you, your space, your time and your energy.
Setting boundaries isn’t about being selfish or inconsiderate, it’s about knowing what your limits are and what you want. It’s recognising your own value and defining your self-worth by making sure that your needs are met too.
How do you know that you need to set a boundary? When your decision to people please is negatively impacting your quality of life. It’s helpful to ask: At what cost to me? My time, energy, finances, emotional reserves, etc.
Boundaries are for YOU, not the other person. They are personal protective limits for your safety. Boundaries are not ultimatums. They are actions you take for yourself, because when you set boundaries you honour YOUR needs.
Boundaries actually improve your relationships, because you feel more valued and respected, this helps you to connect better with others.