Saying no isn’t always easy for those of us who have been abused. The abuser trained us that we weren’t allowed to say no or have any rights or boundaries. We also learned to explain ourselves fully (part of that no boundaries thing) to appease our abusers.
Unfortunately, that kind of sick training runs VERY deep & is hard to break. Hard, but not impossible.
The word “boundaries” brings different thoughts to different people. Many people think “limiting” or “selfish” when they hear the word, but boundaries are actually the very opposite. They encourage respect, love & freedom.
Boundaries are like a fence surrounding your yard. Things that are your responsibility are your feelings, actions & beliefs. & they are within your fence. Those same things are within the fences of other people. Their feelings, beliefs and actions are their responsibility, not yours. Even if they are wrong or bad, that is the other person’s business, not yours. You are not responsible for other people! It is not your business what they think, feel or do! The Bible says we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), so we may speak to someone about their hurtful, dangerous, or self-destructive behavior, but, trying to change someone to suit your ideals is wrong.
Boundaries are learned as children, and some behaviors from our parents may warp normal boundary development. Emotionally incestuous parents create children who grow into adults who feel responsible for the happiness of other people. Manipulative or childish parents create children that can grow up feeling like they must fix all of the problems of others. There are also many parents with Narcissistic Personality Disorder who does not respect the boundaries of her child. This child grows up to believe she has no right to have boundaries, even to the point of stopping others from abusing her.
A person with healthy boundaries cannot be controlled. Boundaries will change your life! You will learn to take responsibility only for yourself, while encouraging others to do the same with your healthy behavior.
In developing and enforcing new boundaries, it is beneficial to have a good support system- people who have your best interests at heart, who do not judge or criticize unfairly, who will support you, & who respect boundaries. They will help you to learn about setting & enforcing good boundaries & gain confidence.
When you first begin to develop boundaries, some people will not like it. They will tell you that you are being selfish, give you the silent treatment, or even ask what happened to the “nice girl” you used to be. Reasonable, safe people will accept your new boundaries with no complaints. Unsafe people will not. Setting boundaries is a very good way to determine the safe from the unsafe people.
To start learning about boundaries, I strongly suggest you read the book, “Boundaries” by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I love this book- it truly changed my life!
Once you read the book, spend some time soul searching. Ask yourself questions, such as where do you need to set boundaries in your own life? What are you no longer willing to tolerate from people? Then, you need to figure out healthy ways to enforce those boundaries…
If you deal with someone who insists on talking about a subject you are uncomfortable with, she needs to know that you are not willing to discuss these particular topics with her. Change the subject. If she continues, tell her that if she does not drop this matter, you will hang up the phone (or leave the room). If that does not work, follow through on your threat! Empty threats do no good to show others you are serious about your new boundaries! In fact, they show others you have weak boundaries & they can be run over easily.
Learn simple phrases such as:
“I won’t do that.”
“I won’t discuss this subject with you.”
“You’re entitled to your opinion, but so am I.”
Some people are going to try to make you feel bad for your new boundaries. If they cannot respect your healthy boundaries, then they are the ones with a problem, not you.
The information above is some very basic information that you will need to adapt to your unique situation, but you can do this! Even if you are afraid, as most people learning to set boundaries for the first time are, do it anyway! What is the worst that can happen? Someone who is controlling kicks you out of his or her life? Would that truly be such a great hardship?
I also recommend you look into my free online course based on the book “Boundaries.” It can be found at this link: Boundaries Book Study
The benefits of setting these boundaries certainly outweigh the risks. You will have more inner peace than ever before, you will feel lighter & freer since you do not need to be responsible for some things you once were (such as the happiness and choices of others), & you naturally will begin to attract much healthier, happier people into your life.