Boundaries are a very important part of life, but perhaps even more so in victims of narcissistic abuse.
Narcissists don’t allow their victims to have any boundaries. This creates victims who think they aren’t allowed to have boundaries not only with the narcissist, but with everyone. Lacking healthy boundaries sets a person up to be used & abused. Even the kindest, most well meaning people can inadvertently take advantage of someone without good boundaries, because the person doesn’t say no. How can anyone know what they’re asking someone to do is a problem if that someone doesn’t say no?
Boundaries are like the fence that surrounds your yard. They show you where you end and other people begin, & what is & is not your personal responsibility. Your emotions, beliefs, desires & behaviors are your responsibility. Likewise, the emotions, beliefs, desires and behaviors of other people are their responsibility, not yours. You do not even need to have an opinion on these things. If they are hurting you or are being self-destructive, however, Ephesians 4:15 says that you may speak the truth to them in love about the issue.
No one can control someone with healthy boundaries. You will show others that you have confidence & self-respect, & that you love yourself enough to take good care of you.
By learning about boundaries, you will quickly learn what is & is not important to you, therefore you know what you need to confront another person about, & what you can let slide. You will be more sensitive to the early signs of resentment or anger that let you know that your boundaries are being violated. It is best to nip things in the bud, rather than to let the problem continue until it is much bigger.
Boundaries also enforce consequences. Galatians 6:7 says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Often, many people try to interfere with this natural law to avoid painful consequences, however, doing that often causes bigger problems. Boundaries allow this reaping to take place because you know that it is not your place to interfere. People need consequences for their actions, good or bad! How is someone who does good things for others benefited by never receiving recognition or a reward for their good works? That person becomes discouraged, potentially even bitter. Or, what good does it do anyone to say or do anything they want, & never suffering when they cause others to suffer? This person learns nothing, nor does she have any opportunity to grow and mature or grow closer to God.
When you first begin to set boundaries, some people will not like it. They will tell you that you are being selfish or uppity, or they may ask what happened to the “good girl” you used to be. Reasonable, safe people will accept & respect your new boundaries with no problems. Unsafe people will not. If others cannot respect your healthy boundaries, then they are the ones with a problem, not you. Setting boundaries is a very good way to learn who is safe & who is not.
For your first step in getting started on boundaries, I strongly suggest you spend some time asking yourself these questions, & really think about your answers:
• What things am I no longer willing to tolerate from other people?
• What things do I need from other people?
• What boundaries do I need to set in my own life?
• How can I enforce them in a healthy way?
When setting your new boundaries, be very decisive about them. Wavering in your boundaries can lead to problems, such as others not not respecting your new boundaries.
You also need to figure out healthy ways to enforce those boundaries. Some simple phrases that may help you are:
• “I’m not going to do that.”
• “I won’t discuss this subject with you.”
• “You’re entitled to your opinion, but so am I.”
• “If you don’t stop talking about this subject, I’m going to hang up the phone (or leave the room, etc).”
Enforce your boundaries with consequences when necessary. Hang up the phone, leave the room, or whatever your consequence is. If you do not enforce your boundaries, people not only will lose respect for the boundary you are setting, but they will lose respect for you as well.
Remember to respect the boundaries of others too. You may need to write down what you are & are not responsible for regarding others in your life. Everyone is entitled to the same things that you are- lack of judgment on their own emotions, beliefs, desires, & actions. And remember- you are also not responsible for the feelings & well-being of others. People are also allowed to freely express their emotions. While you may offer sympathy, it is not your responsibility to make things all better for them. If you have done wrong by them, however, then it is certainly your place to apologize & try to make it up to them for the pain you caused.
You will need to tailor this information 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 in their lives are, do it anyway! The benefits of boundaries outweigh the risks. You will have more inner peace than ever before, you will feel less burdened & 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.