The challenges of setting boundaries

Reading your responses to the boundary-setting survey, I wanted to share some of the top struggles people are having, and for a very specific reason…

In my experience, if boundary setting is a major challenge…

…it’s pretty darn likely we grew up in a family system with some or all of the following:

Healthy boundary setting/keeping wasn’t modeled.

Healthy boundary setting/keeping wasn’t allowed.

Boundaries were routinely tested, crossed or ignored entirely.

Speaking from personal experience, the result is that we can feel super alone…

…as we learn how to do those things that weren’t taught and/or allowed in childhood.

We might also have a lot of people in our present-day lives who grew up in similarly boundaryless homes (try saying that five times, fast), and thus, they likely struggle with setting and respecting boundaries, too.

We might feel like people want to take our energy without giving support in return.

The point is, it can feel awfully lonely (and scary) learning how to set boundaries if it seems like no one else is doing it.

Like, if we start doing this whole boundary setting thing, will we be roundly rejected by every single person we know, forced to live out our days miserable and friendless, arguing with a volleyball?

Tom Hanks in Cast Away

Maybe it feels like the people who are setting boundaries, somehow, magically find it super easy, and they aren’t struggling like we are.

What’s wrong with us??

Well, the short answer is: There’s nothing wrong with you. Boundaries are challenging! Particularly when you haven’t been taught how or given a safe space to practice.

I sent out the survey to ensure the new boundaries class I’m creating speaks directly to what you need.

And here are some things you shared…

While you might know how to set boundaries, an overwhelming percentage feels like those tools aren’t enough.

It still feels stressful AF to actually set boundaries!

Maybe you’ve been given tips on what to say, but those statements feel overly rigid, formal, or harsh, and again:

IT FEELS TOTALLY SCARY TO ACTUALLY SAY THEM.

You’re wondering, how do you communicate boundaries in a way that feels authentic to you and not like some weird communication robot?

How do you state a boundary without tripping over your words, feeling like you might literally die from guilt or awkwardness?

How do you really know where you need to set a boundary and when it’s the right time to do so?

How do you say no to requests when your only reason is you don’t want to say yes (e.g. you’re not too busy, etc)?

How on earth do you set and maintain boundaries with yourself?

And especially:

How in the hell do you do any of this boundary stuff without bone-numbing, thought-consuming guilt???

In the last year and a half alone…

I’ve intentionally estranged from previously close family members, and not after a major blow up or by ghosting them, but through a direct conversation in which I let them know how much I love them and I’m not able to be in contact anymore.

They definitely didn’t agree with me, and they and other family members have tried to guilt trip me out of my decision while I was dealing with my own grief, missing them, waves of nostalgia, etc.

Translation: I’ve had lots of recent opportunities to practice hard stuff!

(Also, here’s a cool fact: You don’t have to make yourself available for guilt-tripping conversations, forcing yourself to “grin and bear it” or painstakingly defending your actions. You’re 100% allowed to set a boundary around that.)

I’ve communicated with friends that I can’t be a support for them on particular topics, while maintaining closeness (and in fact, enjoying greater intimacy thanks to the boundary).

(Btw, anyone else feel like setting boundaries with friends can bring its own special brand of cringy weirdness??)

I’ve communicated boundaries with family members and work partners who responded with guilt trips, silent treatment, or arguments against my boundaries, and I’ve sat with the shit storm of feelings that arose while maintaining those boundaries.

(I’ve also been met with understanding and support, so it’s not all hard, I swear!)

None of this came naturally to me.

I grew up trying to people please my way through absolutely everything, stewing in resentment, loneliness and guilt, terrified that people would shun me if I communicated what I needed.

So, if any of this resonates and you haven’t shared your thoughts in the survey, you can still do that here.

I want to make sure the boundaries class is incredibly useful for you

That it leaves you feeling like you can actually do this stuff without dying from guilt or anxiety.

I want to give you strategies that start at the beginning, with knowing, clearly, where you need to set a boundary to actually starting the conversation without shitting your pants…

…all the way to sticking with the boundary after you’ve set it, no matter how people respond.

And again: I want to help you do all of this without being consumed by mountains of guilt and anxious thought loops (totally been there!).

I didn’t believe any of this was possible when I first started out.

But now, years later, even though it can still be challenging at times (sometimes majorly so), I know that:

– I have the tools to set boundaries in a way that feels genuine to me and actually stick to them.

– boundaries don’t have to damage my relationships and are truly the key to strengthening them.

even if others don’t agree with or respect my boundaries, I have the tools to take care of myself.

And you can, too.

Are boundaries the easiest thing in the world? Nope, not usually.

So, it’s totally normal if this stuff feels hard, but it can also get a helluva lot easier, I promise.

I’ll keep you posted in the coming weeks as the boundaries class comes together. 🙂

Don’t forget to share what you want to see in the class here. Thank you!

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