In my last blog, I wrote about people pleasers and how hard it is for them to set personal boundaries. What are boundaries? Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to, but they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships.
What happens when a person cannot maintain healthy boundaries? They may engage in-over sharing, or share information when there’s isn’t enough trust in the relationship, like sharing the secrets of another person. They may feel resentful or annoyed because no one is bending over for them, “I feel taken advantage of”. Or they behave in a passive-aggressive manner, like lashing out at someone, because they don’t know how to set a proper boundary. A person with no boundaries might be overdoing things for a friend because they are afraid of rejection and abandonment, “If I don’t do this then Tracey might leave me”.
Poor boundaries often indicate a person’s loss of their sense of Self. Their identity gets lost in the shuffle of everyone’s life. Do I lose my sense of Self when I try to please you? Do I know how much is too much to give of myself? Our bodies let us know when we have crossed our own limits. It’s the pang in your gut when you say yes, when in fact you wished you had said NO.
What do you notice in your body when you “give in” to your mother’s or friend’s request after a long week of work? What do you notice in your body when your friend or colleague asks you for a favour, but you’d planned to do chores that you’ve been putting off? Practice slowing down your responses, to first listen to your gut reaction to any of these requests. If you feel yourself saying “I don’t want to, I need time for myself” or “I feel guilty if I say no even though I’m exhausted”, then you are not putting in a boundary. You may not register feelings of anger or resentment that you are “on call” for others, and you may feel too depleted to give to yourself. A long history of people-pleasing has made you give and give, and tolerate not receiving.
After tuning to your gut pang, then you need to slow down your response. You can buy yourself time by using some of these responses:
- Can I get back to you?
- I’m not sure this weekend will work, I need to check my other commitments.
- I’m sorry, but I have plans.
- I am working on home projects for the next week/month.
You can then follow-up with a text or email, Sorry I am not available, with no explanation as to why. This can be hard for people-pleasers as their feelings of guilt make them feel they need to explain why, to avoid rejection. It will feel awkward or uncomfortable at the beginning, but once you enjoy some ME time, you will want more.
What are healthy boundaries?
- You don’t compromise values for others
- You share personal information appropriately (no over sharing or under sharing)
- You know your personal needs and can communicate them
- You accept when others say NO
- You value your own opinions