Strong people are made- not born.
Absence of being able to effectively set boundaries is often seen as weakness, though I will ask, how are you to be expected to set strong boundaries and stand up for yourself when you were not taught the skills to do so?
Many reflect on their childhoods and exclaim that their parents made sure to teach them to “not back down, stand up for what you believe in, finish the fight, or even don’t let anyone bully you”.
My father especially shared all of those with me and still, when it came to asking for what I need, I was unable to do so.
Standing up to strangers or walking away from it was easy enough, but setting a boundary with a loved one? No.
Often times, even when we are loved and nurtured and taught to fight for ourselves, unless that message also applies to be able to fight for our needs against our early childhood caregivers without consequence, we grow to be adults who struggle with setting strong boundaries.
Consequence here refers to any reaction to your boundary that would make you feel as though you are mean, inconsiderate, thoughtless, selfish, hurtful etc.
Do you equate setting boundaries with loved ones with being one of the above?
As a child, if you were taught that saying no, or not right now or asking for a different outcome would mean that you are taking something from the other person, then that guilt is the cause behind the pause of setting boundaries as an adult.
While reflecting on experiences just now, were you met with an emotional response? Perhaps frustration, sadness, or defiance?
True emotions come out when you not only identify what happened but why that is an issue-
Here, many will rush to give examples to prove why the experiences are justified, and I am here to remind you that the point is not to place blame- rather to understand what has taken place to lead us to how we became who we are today.
Our parents and loved ones did the best with what they knew to do at that time.
Yet, those actions, no matter how well-intentioned, has a ripple effect on how we perceive and interact with the world today.
So, now what?
You know where this struggle possibly stems from, so how do we proceed?
Step one is working on becoming self-aware and being able to have introspection, identify the reasons behind why we struggle with setting boundaries.
I am _________ when I set a boundary.
I am _________ when I ask for what I need.
I am _________ when I show my feelings.
I am _________ when I don’t do what they ask.
Step two is reframing the belief.
The tricky part is being able to challenge the belief with enough steps to where you do not talk yourself out of it.
Here is an example: My friend asked me over to keep her company because she has been struggling with her depression. I have had a full day of sessions that has left me emotionally depleted, my children are coming home soon and I will need to prepare dinner, I have a fractured foot that is on FIRE and my migraine is slowly creeping in.
Belief #1: If I say no, I am a bad friend because she needs me.
Belief #2: I am a therapist and equipped to handle her emotions and give support, so I should be there for her.
Belief #3: If I am not there for her now, I am selfish and self-centered because I know how hard it is for her and I would want someone to be there for me.
What do I do?
In order to effectively challenge these beliefs, I need to have 5 examples of facts that negate this one belief and continue with each one down my list before I can come up with a solution.
Belief #1, I am able to give examples of all the times I have been there for her, as soon as she’s asked for it, or even times when I was able to sense her need and provide it before it became one.
Belief #2: Yes I have all of those qualities and I can be there for her, though perhaps not in person immediately, I can call her, or set up a time later in the evening or if she is willing, she can come over to my home.
Belief #3: Caring for my physical and emotional health in order to effectively provide for my children and friendships is the proper healthy way. Anything given at my expense would not be beneficial to her because I would not be able to be fully present, and even in physical pain if this migraine goes on full blast mode. My children would suffer, I would suffer, and my friend would not have the support she is seeking.
The key here is changing the belief behind what makes someone loving/a good friend and by default, if you don’t have those to offer at the moment, you must be awful.
Step three is being able to ask for what you need at the moment.
Here, I would show empathy and understanding for her desire to meet and I would offer the options in a way that is able to meet her need without it being at the expense of my well-being.
If I am saying yes to someone else whiles saying no to me at my expense, I am immediately teaching my subconscious and those around me that I will always come last.
Standing up for yourself is a skill- not a given. Even after you work through these steps, you will feel the residual guilt or shame of how you have felt up to this point. It will be uncomfortable.
To rewrite a belief, you have to experience it enough times without consequence to replace it.
The basis of confidence is knowing what makes you worthy AND knowing that your worth does not waver based on doing for others at the expense of you.
Photo by Carol (vanhookc)
Photo by Carol (vanhookc)