Setting boundaries cannot be easy for some people, but it is something that we all need. We need to let people know what to expect from us, because that is going to help us to have healthy relationships with them. Elsa González Lueje from In-Mentis Integrative Psychology explains the importance of setting boundaries and how to do it.
One of the main causes of having to set strong boundaries is when there is someone with narcissistic traits or Narcissistic Personality Disorder in our lives. Most of the time, narcissists don’t have a diagnosis because they don’t go to specialists – believing that there is nothing wrong with them – but that doesn’t mean that people with these kinds of characteristics aren’t around us.
When to increase your boundaries with othersThere could also be people that are not narcissistic to the point of a full-blown disorder, but they exhibit inappropriate behaviours that might be harmful and put you in a difficult situation, like when there is emotional blackmail.
We are talking about people who may say things like, “If you don’t do what I want you to do, I will be sad / angry” or “If you do this, I’m going to leave and I won’t love you anymore.” In the end, you could end up doing something that you wouldn’t normally do, just because you don’t want to receive the emotional consequences threatened by the other person.
These kinds of behaviours can come from your loved ones such as parents, siblings, and other family members. But this kind of harmful behaviour can also come from bosses, work colleagues or friends.
How would you feel?In these situations, you can feel like you are doing things wrong, that you are a bad or selfish person. You might feel rejected and abandoned and like you aren’t good enough.You would like to prioritise your own opinion or wishes, but if you do so, you might think that you are the one causing harm to the other person.
But what about you? If you consistently give into the wishes of someone else, you are going to feel bad about yourself. This could have various effects on your wellbeing such as: anxiety, becoming a people pleaser, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, and panic attacks. This reaffirms the idea of the other person, leading you to believe that there is something wrong with you and that you are the problem.
Feeling emptyYou can also feel a void in yourself because you cannot be yourself or get what you want. You might not even know what your true wishes are because that narcissistic individual never lets you think about it – it has always been about them. You can also feel drained and exhausted because you have given a lot of yourself to them and you get very little, or even nothing, in return.
Benefits of boundariesWe all need boundaries, because narcissists are going to take advantage of people who don’t have them. They need to know whom they can and cannot behave abusively towards. Therefore, sometimes people who have strong boundaries cannot believe that a specific person can behave that way, because the narcissist never acts abusively with people who set boundaries.
At the beginning, it can be difficult to start setting boundaries. You might not have any idea how to do it, especially if you have had this situation in your family and you have grown up in this environment. Nonetheless, you have to start with small changes, like setting boundaries with other people first, not with the main person causing you harm. Of course, you will have to empower yourself by believing that there is nothing wrong with you and you deserve things. You deserve to have a choice and go after what you want. You deserve to be calm and happy.
In some cultures, where family or being nice to others is very important, setting boundaries can be even more difficult and incomprehensible, because to do so would go against societal norms. It may seem like establishing boundaries means that you are going to be completely on your own.
Change is goodWhen you set boundaries, there will be change in your life. Maybe some people that used to always be around you, will not be there anymore. They will say that you have changed or you argue more with them. Why is this? This is because you are finally saying what you want. Of course, it’s easier for them to have you around if you always do what they want, but what about you? What about what you want? You need to protect yourself and that happens by setting boundaries.
It’s possible that you will have to take a healthy distance from this person or lose them entirely. You don’t have to cut off the relationship, but what you will notice is that other kinds of people will arrive in your life when you set these boundaries. These people will respect you, listen to you and will understand your desires and whether you like to do things differently than most people, and that is okay.
If you feel like you are in a toxic situation, need help setting boundaries, or struggle from difficult psychological symptoms, In-Mentis Integrative Psychology can help. You can reach their team at (+31) 620 382 274 or at [email protected].