A huge source of frustration is knowing that something doesn’t feel good or right for us but waiting for something or someone else to change. This is a boundary issue that leads to us making choices, even passive ones, and then feeling wounded by them. This renders us powerless and helpless in the face of dealing with unwanted situations. Rather than take action though, we want the other party to change. This way we don’t have to get out of our comfort zone. It’s not necessarily that we think this. Still, there’s this belief that our discomfort is primarily (or purely) the result of something outside of ourselves.

What we have to realise, though, is that wanting or even getting someone to change when we have unhealthy boundaries won’t erase our discomfort and make the problem go away.

Boundaries are two-fold. If our thinking and behaviour don’t change in any way, this assumes that the problem is wholly and solely that of the other party. 

But if we continue behaving how we did, even if that person adjusts their behaviour, we are still open to the same problem, whether it’s from them or someone else.

If we don’t acknowledge our part no matter how small, the problem still remains.

E.g. You are a people pleaser who keeps putting your friend’s needs, desires, etc., above yours. You keep accommodating them even at the expense of your well-being. Naturally, you eventually feel taken advantage of and unappreciated. Over time, even though you’ve rescued and people-pleased that person, you now want them to step up. In essence, you want them to change their behaviour to relieve your discomfort.

On some level, there’s this sense that you are only neglecting your needs because of your friend’s mentality and actions. Hence, if your friend sorts themselves out, you won’t have a problem meeting your needs. But that’s magical thinking. Even if your friend stops doing whatever it is that’s now getting on your nerves, if you’re still using the same thinking and actions that influenced those choices, the problem in the friendship or in your self-care attitude and habits won’t be resolved. 

Now, let’s imagine that the friend has an epiphany and realises, Wow, I have really bad boundaries with my loved ones and haven’t been taking responsibility for myself. From now on, I’m going to do my best to have more mutual relationships.

Problem solved, right? Um, no. You, with your pleaser mentality, are going to feel funny when, as a result of your friend having healthier boundaries, you are expected to adjust your ways. You won’t be able to try to do things in a way of gaining strokes and praise. Your friend will expect you to speak up. Suddenly you might feel resentful.

The frustrations, challenges and hurts we experience reveal our need for healthier boundaries.

Having poor boundaries isn’t symptomatic of the relationship or situation where we noticed the problem; it’s a habit that already existed. That doesn’t mean that what someone else is doing isn’t annoying or problematic, but if we don’t acknowledge the habits that contribute to us continuing with a frustrating situation, we will keep being in repeats of that situation until we do.

Boundaries are two-fold. When we communicate our boundaries to others, we also need to communicate them to ourselves

If we only know or attempt to set other people’s boundaries, this is a sign of poor boundaries. We are trying to rule others with the ill-feeling created by our unhealthy boundaries. If, however, in recognising what it is that we need boundary-wise from our loved ones, we acknowledge our part in holding up that boundary, then we enjoy more loving relationships and reduce our frustrations.

The Joy of Saying No by Natalie Lue book cover. Subtitle: A simple plan to stop people pleasing, reclaim boundaries, and say yes to the life you want.

Ready to reclaim yourself from the cycle of people pleasing and any patterns that reinforce feelings of low self-worth? 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.

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