Hello, beautiful creatures! Today I want to discuss why boundaries are important. As a woman who had a toxic narcissist for a mother, I grew up with very poor boundaries. Poor boundaries led to much suffering during my life. I don’t want others to suffer the way I have, which is why I’m sharing with you today.
What are Boundaries?
What are boundaries? Imagine a protective shield, like a bubble, surrounding you. Your feelings, needs, responsibilities, and body are all inside your protective shield, separating you from everyone else. Boundaries are needed to protect you from others and create realistic expectations in life.
There are many types of boundaries:
- Emotional – your feelings or other people’s feelings
- Physical – your personal space, privacy, your body, physical touch
- Sexual – your intimacy expectations
- Financial – whether you save or spend, loan money to friends or not
- Intellectual – your beliefs and thoughts
The different types of boundaries we have help tell others what is acceptable and unacceptable in your life. If you don’t have good boundaries, and I did not for many years, people will take advantage of you. Similarly, this is why boundaries are essential; to protect yourself from others who will want to take advantage of you.
How Did You Learn About Boundaries?
How did I learn about boundaries? Seeing and understanding boundaries was a struggle until I spent years in therapy working with my therapist. I struggled so hard because I wasn’t allowed to set firm boundaries with my mother as a child during my formative years.
I struggled with being unable to say ‘no’ to people. I did things I didn’t want to do and got myself into dangerous situations I shouldn’t have been in because of my inability to set firm boundaries. Oversharing information, being a people pleaser, and being unable to say no, were things I did out of fear. As a result, these things attracted narcissists to me like moths to a flame.
You may want to read I’m proud to be a villain: lessons on narcissists.
Communication is so vital to so many facets of our lives. Being able to communicate about boundaries is very important. Some limitations have always been evident and easy to understand for me. Other boundaries I’ve struggled to understand and had to ask questions. My friends have never minded me asking about their limitations so that I can be respectful of them.
If you’re unsure of whether someone has a boundary about something, ask that person. For example, one of my friends does not like to be touched in public, ever. She states this to all her friends. For instance, if I didn’t understand this, I would ask her about it.
How to Set and Enforce Boundaries
It would be best if you learned how to set and enforce boundaries to protect yourself. If someone crosses one of your boundaries, you need to speak up and explain to them in clear terms, so they understand it’s not ok. Be sure you spell out precisely what sort of boundary they crossed. Then explain how you expect to be treated so it doesn’t happen again.
Before therapy, it was a challenge for me to figure out how to set boundaries. One thing that I started doing was writing down how I felt after an interaction with another person, whether it was a phone call that left me drained or a meeting that left me anxious. Then I would examine why I was feeling that way to see if boundaries had been crossed. If my boundaries had been crossed, I then had the scary (to me) task of telling the other person that I felt my limit had been violated and it needed not to happen again.
Boundaries are only as good as you are about enforcing them. Your true friends will accept a limitation. Narcissists, sociopaths, and users will challenge your limits and try to force you to bring them down. Protecting you from users is one of the many reasons why boundaries are important.
More About Boundaries
Being honest with your friends about who you are, what you want, and how you want to be treated by others is the best thing you can do for yourself. Boundaries and standards only scare off people who were going to use you.
One of my friends recently set a boundary with another person, which was disrespected. We’ll call my friend Chris. First, Chris told his friend Allen that he did not want to be around Allen if Allen’s wife Raina was around. Raina is not a kind person and had disrespected Chris’s boundaries many times. Once Chris had established this boundary with Allen, Allen said he understood and respected it. Then, Allen invited Chris to an art exhibit and surprised Chris by having Raina show up. Next, Chris told Allen in no uncertain terms that his boundaries had been violated. Allen didn’t respect Chris’s boundaries and had violated them many times, building up to this last encounter. Finally, Chris is no longer friends with Allen because of this final boundary violation. To protect himself and enforce his boundaries, Chris had to end the friendship.
The #1 Thing I Wish I Knew to Start
The number one thing I wish I had known about boundaries from the start is that they are one of the biggest acts of meaningful self-care you can do for yourself. You need healthy emotional boundaries to protect your feelings and needs. Boundaries keep you from giving too much of yourself, too, which is another reason why limitations are essential.
If you’re an Empath, as I am, you might be prone to doing too much for others and not saving any energy for yourself. Boundaries help make it easier for me to say no to things that don’t align with my priorities. Having good boundaries protects you.
What Happens When You Set Boundaries?
When you stop letting people treat you like a doormat and walk all over you, those people who took advantage will call you difficult or say you’re a drama queen. Fuck ’em. These narcissistic individuals are accustomed to walking all over people, and when you don’t let them bully you, they don’t know what to do with you. Users like this may even try to gaslight you by saying that you pushing back at those who try to cross your boundaries is toxic, but don’t be fooled by them. They’re toxic.
Why Boundaries are Important
In 2019 and 2020, I set boundaries with friends that I felt were not treating me right. Some of these individuals lied to me, lied about me, screamed in my face in the middle of a crowded restaurant, or stole from me. After discussing these people and situations with my therapist about how they made me feel, my therapist encouraged me to set firm boundaries. She told me that solid boundaries would protect me from people trying to take advantage or hurt me. Since then, when people try to overstep my limitations, I immediately push back and tell them no, this isn’t ok. If it’s a terrible boundary violation, I immediately cut them out of my life, depending on how egregious their transgressions are.
The version of me with weak boundaries that those abusive ex-friends created in their minds is not who I am. That version of me in their heads is not my responsibility. I’m not the same person I was one year ago, much less three or five years ago.
If those fake friends got themselves in therapy and apologized for their mistreatment of me, I still will not let them back into my life because I feel the need to protect myself.
I don’t owe them or anyone else access to me, even if they’ve changed.
And that’s another big reason why boundaries are important. Your boundaries are there to protect you.
Ultimately, I’m now surrounding myself with people who share my core values, such as kindness, direct communication, love of nature and animals, and raw honesty. My true friends are motivated individuals who have solid boundaries and believe in clear communication. We respect each other’s boundaries. I hope you find this insight into boundaries helpful.