Why Is Setting Boundaries So Difficult?

by | Sep 21, 2020 | Healthy Relationships


I recently caught myself saying “yes” to something that I really didn’t want to do. I could feel my body tighten up. I could hear my mind groan. Nevertheless, I still agreed to do it.

Old habits run deep.

When I sit down with myself and really examine what’s going on with me in those moments, I can see that I don’t want people to be angry with me. I don’t want them to feel disappointed or to misinterpret my lack of desire to do x-y-z as a rejection of them.

I can remember adults scorning me as a child, “Who do you think you are? The Queen of Sheba?”

My stomach clenches even today at the memory of that phrase. How I’d shrink as I heard it.

I remember the shame I felt around wanting to matter, to be valued, to be important – and how quickly I then shut those impulses down and disconnected from them.

A friend recently reminded me that “parent-pleasers become people-pleasers.”

That rings true to me.
We learn our habits early on.

Like me, were you a kid that learned that being small, quiet, and not having any needs meant safety, approval, and acceptance?

As adults, this often translates into our staying small, self-silencing, and being unable to set effective boundaries with people.

We push aside what we want, we say “yes” to others’ needs almost compulsively, and we often struggle to take care of ourselves.

Unable to stay grounded in ourselves and to communicate our needs, we often feel exhausted and resentful.
We surrender our happiness and find ourselves in one-sided relationships.

Sound familiar? I’ve spent a lifetime liberating myself from these messages and interpersonal habits.

I frequently get private messages from people like this:

“Why is it so hard for me to set clear boundaries with others?”

“How can I get over my fear of saying “no” to people?

“How do I figure out where my boundaries are when I am so used to just being there for others?”

So, I got to thinking, what if I created a four-week intensive workshop dedicated to boundaries where you learned

  • how to say no with ease,

  • how to identify your limits and stand for what you really believe in, and

  • how to be true to yourself without losing care for the humans who really matter to you.

What would it look like to be authentically yourself, express your limits and boundaries clearly, and still be in meaningful relationships with others?

What would it be like to fully trust yourself to protect yourself from harm, without resorting to being aggressive, mean or unkind to others?

Please remember these three things:

  1. We are not responsible for other people’s feelings, even though we care.

  2. We may need to learn how to say “no” sooner.

  3. We need to stand for something we deeply believe in, visibly.

What do you struggle with the most when it comes to boundary setting? I’d love to know. Please leave a comment below!


WANT TO GO DEEPER IN THIS WORK?

Here are a few of my programs that might be of interest to you:

  • Conversations from the Heart, a free Q&A call on Wednesdays at 10am CT. LEARN MORE

  • Membership, a deep dive into personal growth with a dedicated community. LEARN MORE

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4 Comments

  1. Pam

    What a great idea for a course – I hope many people see and join this!

    Reply
  2. cheryle

    The greatest struggle I have is saying what is true for me is when Im afraid it will hurt another persons feelings.

    Reply
  3. Genevieve

    I struggle most with my internal judgements and dialogue about being "selfish" with boundaries…..and imaginations that I should be more reciptive to others.

    Reply
  4. carole

    something around a perceived imbalance in power in a relationship? One brings more financially than the other, so something about value and worth and what we bring to relationships other than money?
    this stops me I think, fear of losing my home, being asked to provide more than I have and not being in a position to – or choosing not to, ie working part time as opposed to working flat out for minimum pay – so many issues around boundary making I think

    Reply

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