Have you ever wondered how to set boundaries without guilt?
Do you second-guess yourself when setting boundaries?
Or are you unsure of what boundaries you even need?
Then read on, my friend, because in this episode, I am answering the eight most common questions I get asked about boundaries
Prefer the audio? Listen here.
What Are Boundaries?
There is a ton of confusion around boundaries (which is why I wrote Boundary Boss), so let’s start with my definition: think of your boundaries as your own personal rules of engagement. They let other people know what is okay and what is not okay with you.
Your boundaries are made up of your preferences, desires, limits, and deal-breakers.
Our boundaries are unique to us. My preferences and deal-breakers are different from yours. And if you aren’t sure what your preferences are, I got you covered later in this episode.
Let’s dive into the eight questions about boundaries I get asked all the time.
Question 1: How Do You Know When a Boundary Is Crossed?
Dial into your body and get curious.
You likely have a physical reaction when a boundary is crossed, but you might be unaware of it.
When a boundary of mine is crossed, I feel my chest constrict and my face might get flushed. My body knows, even if my mind denies it to avoid confrontation.
Your body’s wisdom is profound. You just need to slow down enough to listen to it. I recommend writing down when you feel a physical constriction or resentment about something. After a while, a pattern of who crosses your boundaries the most may emerge.
By the way, a boundary violation might be someone telling an inappropriate joke, making a lewd comment about your clothing or body, or consistently talking over you.
Question 2: How Can I Stop Second-Guessing My Boundaries?
Do you avoid setting boundaries because you “don’t want to make a big deal” out of things?
Before we can stop second-guessing ourselves, we need to understand why we do this in the first place.
The most common reasons for not setting or enforcing boundaries are fear of rejection, abandonment, conflict, or punishment.
Additionally, a huge reason we do not enforce boundaries is a lack of accurate information, education, and guidance. We were never taught how to do it.
In this context, second-guessing is not necessarily about making a big deal out of nothing. You are likely second-guessing your ability to articulate what is happening to you.
It often comes down to having the right words and boundary scripts. They need to feel good to you.
Inside the guide, you will find four steps for setting a boundary with confidence. Feeling more secure in knowing what to do makes it easier to speak up.
Question 3: How Can I Set Boundaries Without Guilt?
We must go deep inside and understand why we feel guilty about setting a boundary.
It may not be guilt- it might be fear of making someone mad or disappointing them.
My therapy clients often say they feel guilty after setting a boundary. But when we dive into the situation, we discover they are actually afraid. They were just misnaming their emotions.
Returning to guilt- you might feel guilty if, during childhood, your parental impactor(s) said they felt guilty after setting boundaries.
Or maybe you got this message: being self-sacrificing all the time is loving.
If you did get this message, drawing boundaries probably makes you feel unloving, which makes you feel bad.
It is important to deeply understand what your guilt is about because you have to make the distinction, did I actually do something wrong?
If you think you did something wrong, you can take the boundary back.
However, an actual boundary is meant to protect ourselves and our relationships, not to control, and rarely falls under this category.
You have a right to your boundaries – your preferences, desires, limits, and deal-breakers. Drawing boundaries, even awkwardly, is not doing anything ‘wrong’ to someone else.
Question 4: Is the Only Solution to Walk Away From Someone Who Doesn’t Respect My Boundaries?
No, not at all. Walking away and cutting contact is usually the last option we want to take if a relationship is valuable to us. There are many other actions we can take.
First: have you actually set a boundary with this person and articulated your preferences? Or are you expecting them to just “know better”?
Second: have you created a consequence for when this person crosses your boundary?
Because here is the thing: takers are going to take. It is on the givers to set limits. The taker is not going to change the situation because it is working for them.
You also have to be discerning about low-priority and high-priority people.
This might sound harsh, but if everyone in the world was a priority to you, then no one would be a priority. Believing everyone deserves equal priority screws over the actual high-priority people in our lives.
One of my clients did this. A lady from her yoga class hurt her leg and asked my client if she could walk her dog every day.
My client lived nearby, saw herself as a nice person, and figured it would just be for a week. She agreed.
But three months later, this lady’s leg had healed and my client was still walking her dog.
It got to the point where her husband asked, “Why are you doing this, especially during what used to be our dinner time?”
She experienced domestic unrest because she had prioritized walking this lady’s dog over having dinner with her husband. She had not made a distinction between who was high-priority and low-priority.
You might feel compelled to blame the lady from her yoga class for being entitled, but you know who is responsible for my client’s boundaries? My client. Not the lady from her yoga class.
Question 5: How Do I Know What Boundaries I Need?
I recommend doing a resentment inventory.
Bring to mind what you feel resentful about in your immediate situation and ask yourself:
- Who or what is getting on your nerves?
- What feels frustrating?
- Where do you feel upset, hurt, unheard, or unseen?
Answering these questions is how we connect the dots between how we are feeling and who the perpetrators are.
The resentment inventory is a quick tool to help you gain a deeper understanding of where you need boundaries because you know what you’re feeling resentful about.
Question 6: How Can I Create Boundaries Without Conflict?
Honestly, I do not know if you can. Generally, the point of creating boundaries is not to avoid conflict.
But you can reframe how you approach this process and how you think about conflict.
Some people think conflict is a dirty word. It’s really not. Conflict is how we work things out. If conflict scares you, call it “working it out” instead.
I truly believe you cannot have a deeply satisfying life by avoiding conflict all day every day.
Similarly, we cannot have boundaries and never bump up against something. Eventually, we have to let go and say, if having boundaries creates conflict, I am not that fragile. I will be okay, and the other person will be okay, too.
Question 7: How Can I Reduce the Anxiety I Feel Around Setting Boundaries?
When we prepare to set a boundary, we often experience what I call anticipatory anxiety. We haven’t set the boundary yet, but the thought of doing it sets us off.
Anticipatory anxiety is a temporary feeling, not a permanent state of being. It is uncomfortable in the beginning, but it is going to be okay. Challenge yourself to tolerate being uncomfortable.
Here are four strategies you can use to diffuse this anticipatory anxiety:
1) Limit future-tripping by staying focused on the present moment and your goal. Do not catastrophize and think, if I say this, then they will say or do this…
2) Take a quick exercise break. Even 10 minutes of movement can help. Try shaking off the excess energy the anxiety is creating in your body.
3) Do a quick mind-dump journaling exercise about the impending conversation. This can release anxiety and produce more clarity, too.
4) Do a quick breathing exercise or a guided meditation. I have a ton on Insight Timer. You can also try The Breathing App by Deepak Chopra. Or do 4×4 breathing, where you breathe in for four seconds, hold for four, exhale for four, and hold out for four.
I have included this list of four strategies for anticipatory anxiety in the guide. Download it right here if you’d like to keep these tactics in your pocket!
Question 8: Does Being Codependent Mean I Have Bad Boundaries?
Yes, it does, because the very definition of codependency is disordered boundaries.
Not sure if you are codependent? Here are 10 signs of codependency. See where you fall.
- Feeling responsible for solving the problems of others.
- Regularly offering advice to others, whether they ask or not.
- Excessive caretaking and preoccupation with others.
- Fear of abandonment and/or obsessive need for approval.
- Feeling unappreciated for all you do.
- Trying to please others to obtain their love and acceptance.
- Feeling like you have to be of use to be loved.
- Using manipulation to shame, guilt, or control others’ behaviors.
- Difficulty making decisions or identifying your feelings in relationships.
- Lack of self-trust.
Back in my 20s, when I was still a high-functioning codependent boundary disaster, I related to all 10 of these signs.
If you see yourself in a lot of them, you are not alone. Check out this blog I did for more details on how to heal codependent relationships. Having better boundaries will help!
I hope these eight questions about boundaries were helpful and added value to your life. Don’t forget to grab the guide, and let me know which question resonated the most with you. Drop me a comment below or tag me on Instagram (@terricole) because I love to hear from you!
P.S. The Boundary Boss Workbook is available for pre-order right now! I am still a new author, and we need to show bookstores you guys care about boundaries and my work. The best way to show support is to buy a bunch of gifts for people for Christmas and have them all be The Boundary Boss Workbook. 🤣 Go to boundarybossworkbook.com for all the details, including the three bonuses available until October 31!