If you think you can go from having no boundaries to suddenly having them or expressing them once and that people will roll over or thank you for it, think again. The truth is, some people are very used to your old boundaries and may take some time to adjust. It’s not necessarily because they have shady intentions, but boundaries evolve dynamics. They change any roles that each of you relied on, so there’s a shift in identity.
For example, if you were pretty dependent on someone, they might feel a tad redundant. Depending on what’s going on with them, they might even feel rejected or threatened. Or, if you’re the go-to person for ‘yes’ at work and then you figure out your boundaries, some will wonder what’s wrong with you. Some will even say they miss the old you, which will probably temporarily trigger guilt.
Consistency with boundaries is critical.
Finally expressing your boundary once, not getting what you perceive to be your ideal response and then backtracking, is super confusing. People don’t know what to make of your flip-flapping. Over time though, if you go about your business and also keep showing up to the boundary, people understand who you are and what you’re about. They adjust.
It’s also best not to gauge the validity of your boundaries on how others respond (or appear to) because all humans have emotional baggage. That, and it’s highly likely there’s an element of projection from your own anxiety about having boundaries. Even then, if someone doesn’t react ‘well’, it doesn’t mean your boundary is wrong. You don’t necessarily know what their reactions are driven by, plus no one is entitled to a problematic yes.
If you only put your toe in the boundaries water once and then back away, you don’t have an honest reading on boundaries. The same person who might react not-so-well in the first instance is the same person who’s fine the next time. But you don’t get to discover that if you don’t try again and keep going. People like to know where they stand.
Are you ready to stop silencing and hiding yourself in an attempt to “please” or protect yourself from others? My new book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (HarperCollins/Harper Horizon), is out now.