Boundaries…why are they so tricky?

by | Oct 20, 2022 | Counselling

Ideally, boundaries help us to navigate the world of relationships. Our boundaries determine what we are comfortable with or where our lines in the sand are drawn. We each get to determine our own boundaries and make our decisions in how to manage them. Some boundaries might be flexible, others are very concrete and some might be always changing or even disappearing at times. How we do boundaries is going to impact our relationships and our relationships are going to impact how we do boundaries.

On the surface boundaries seem like they should be simple enough, even obvious. However, they get tangled up in our attachment styles which are formed in childhood. There are other factors that impact our boundary setting ability like culture, religion, social media and more, but that’s not the focus here.

If you grew up in a family where you had a secure attachment, which means you got a good balance of closeness, love and protection along with encouragement and support to go out and explore, then boundaries probably come easier for you. You probably grew up believing you are worthy of love and belonging and expect people to treat you that way, so boundaries make sense. You can see how clear expectations, straight-forward communication and a good measure of compassion help to keep your relationships on track. You might even wonder about the point of this blog. Keep reading it might help you to understand why boundaries get so tricky for others.

Someone with a more avoidant style of attachment, where you learned to count on yourself and not depend on others might have very rigid boundaries. These boundaries serve to protect you, better to have walls and stay safe then to get hurt or feel abandoned in relationships. Your boundaries might be spoken or unspoken, but you will know when you bump up against them or have crossed them. These boundaries tend to be black and white, sometimes harsh and with little compassion. Rigid boundaries tend to be set out of fear of being hurt or vulnerable. These boundaries may provide protection, but they also block closeness, intimacy and joy. You may find yourself feeling isolated, disconnected and longing for connection, but also fearing it.

On the other end of attachment are those with a more anxious style, here you might feel overwhelmed by your relationships and learned that it is your job to make things right or easier for those you love. You learned to take things on that weren’t yours to take on and worried if you did not you might lose that closeness and connection. Your boundaries might be kind of soft or always changing or they might even be non-existent. This allows you to stay in an unhealthy relationship, but does not provide you protection for your own well-being. You may find yourself being taken for granted, feeling resentful and even being abused.

So our ability to set healthy boundaries is made easier or harder by our early childhood experiences, but the good news is that this is a skill that can be learned. I believe that understanding that connection back to our childhood, helps us to understand ourselves today, have more kindness to ourselves and support ourselves to set healthier boundaries now. What did you learn about boundaries as child? How does that inform your boundaries today? For example, if you grew up in a home where children were expected to be seen and not heard, you might have a hard time speaking up for your needs today.

Today I want you to take this in: “You are worthy of love and belonging!” You are worthy of this, because you exist as a human being. You may not have received this message as a child, but you can now.

Boundaries, spoken or not, tell others what we believe about our worth. It tells them how we expect to be treated in relationship and the consequences that follow. Learn how to embrace your worth and set boundaries that honor you. You deserve to have healthy relationships and healthy boundaries are an essential ingredient.



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