Something that really scares someone who’s embarking on instilling some much-needed boundaries is believing that having and asserting boundaries will scare away everyone. The thing is, the only people who take issue with healthy boundaries are the ones that you need to have boundaries with the most. If somebody takes issue with you owning your right to have a line and a limit, it’s not because you’re not ‘doing’ it right. It’s not as though if you tweak your boundaries enough, they’ll sign off on them. Their response is a code red alert that they see boundaries as a problem. And that’s about their issues, not you.

Somebody whose core values centre around love, care, trust, respect, integrity, and essentially owning their own and letting others own theirs while also being able to practise compassion, empathy, and conscientiousness, has no issue with you having healthy boundaries. They will respect your right to assert your needs, expectations, desires, feelings and opinions just as much as they respect their right.

Two people with healthy boundaries.
Two people with healthy boundaries.
One with healthy boundaries, one without
Both out of bounds with your boundaries

I’m not suggesting they’ll pat you on the back and skip off each time you say or show no.

You’re not going to do this each time somebody says no to you, either! Hopefully, that’s not going to stop you from having healthy boundaries. Your desire to live your life happily and authentically shouldn’t be dictated by the amount of applause you get for doing what you need to do anyway.

Your having boundaries won’t affect someone with healthy boundaries because they weren’t out of bounds in the first place. 

They might even be relieved or pleased to see you doing right by yourself. All that your having boundaries does is ensure that you’re in your own lane and not crossing theirs either.

Once you know and respect your own line and limit, you can you relax and go about the business of being you and living your life. It also takes care of another pervasive fear that affects many boundary ‘virgins’ and novices–predicting that boundaries will be exhausting and ‘bad’ for you. You convince yourself that you’ll have to patrol your perimeter 24/7 and be braced for a breach.

Not everyone is a threat. Once you are aware of your line and your limit (your boundaries) and are willing to step up when needed, you are then aware of what does and doesn’t work for you. You will spend enough time in the now to be able to differentiate between real and imagined threats and to also be able to distinguish between what’s yours and other people’s behaviour.

You only have to act as if your boundaries are under attack if you’re unwilling to trust yourself to take action and live in preparation for being effed over. Or if you’re surrounded by shady people and intend to keep it that way instead of apportioning your efforts towards people you don’t have to keep swatting away from your boundaries.

Having boundaries will feel bad to you if you have an unrealistic expectation that your boundaries will force people to change their ways and keep looking to them to make you feel better about the fact that they crossed your line. That’s like going into the lion’s cage and expecting it not to maul you and then going back to reason with it and asking it to behave like a dog.

In reality, you only have to ‘step up’ for people who like to tap dance all over your boundaries.

Unless every last person in your life is shady, you can chill out and enjoy being you with people who are in your Circle of Trust.

Boundaries guide you and others on what does and doesn’t work for you. Not everything is okay with you. Hence your boundaries are your way of directing you out of harm’s way and towards healthy people and situations.

Boundaries are like garlic and daylight to vampires. They’re not going to scare everyone away, but they will rightly filter out people and situations that would deeply compromise and even endanger you if you were to continue.

If you had a lot of shady people in your life and you’ve opted for the cutting-off option, then it might be a little quiet, which of course, will gradually improve as you focus on rebuilding your life. Cutting off may have been appropriate due to how toxic the involvement was. There’s also keeping a safe distance via limiting the level of engagement, saying and showing no, focusing your efforts on forging other healthy relationships etc.

Of course, evolving your boundaries take time.

Don’t kid yourself that having crumbs or faux relationships, romantic and otherwise, is better than having boundaries. Many people feel at their loneliest when someone is trampling on them and they abandon who they are and their self-respect to keep things going.

If you’re afraid that you will be lonely with boundaries, this is something that you’re predicting that isn’t accurate. Fears rarely are. Loneliness is what you experience when you’re not experiencing intimate connections. No boundaries, no intimacy. You can also buffer yourself by ensuring that you have things to do planned in your calendar.

Do you believe that loneliness equals boundaries? If so, examine the reverse belief that companionship equals having no limits and putting you in harm’s way. Is that what companionship truly looks like to you? Nowhere in the dictionary does “companionship” have “doormat” or even “abused” beside it.

Healthy boundaries, which is basically treating and regarding you with love, care, trust, and respect and knowing your line and your limit so that you guide and direct others to treat you similarly or jog on, have a cumulative benefit. The more consistently you maintain them, is the more they pay off and you start to realise how good you feel, with and without company. Don’t chase instant results – make an investment in you and your present and future happiness.

Your thoughts?

The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon/HarperCollins) is out now and available in bookshops on and offline. Listen to the first chapter.
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