Boundaries are a Spectrum
There are different reasons why someone might not develop strong boundaries. As we talked about in part 1 of this series, many people who struggle with boundary issues are empaths + caretakers who struggle to assert and value their own needs and wants. When this pattern gets out of hand, there can be a lack of identity, a lack of authenticity, + excessive people-pleasing (not to mention exhaustion). When it becomes the norm to override your own feelings and preferences for others, that's when it's time for you to dig deeper into what's going on.
Reasons for Weak Boundaries
As you could've guessed, every psychoanalyst's favorite answer is that your parents are to blame! But jokes aside, the way you were parented really can influence the type of boundaries you keep. In some cases, we see children whose parents taught them (usually by accident) to question themselves, continuously reinforcing that the child shouldn't trust their own insights. For example, a parent who constantly asked the child, "Are you SURE about that?" One big hint is to look at your parents' boundaries - Were they themselves people-pleasers? Are they still? Did your caregivers insist you always do what other adults wanted, regardless of your own discomfort? These kinds of patterns normalize weak boundaries. Such environments establish major beliefs + expectations at a young age, such as:
- You cannot trust your own perceptions. Others know better than you. You're just a kid, what do you know!?
- It's more virtuous to be selfless + let others have their way. Don't be selfish!
- It's useless to assert your own boundaries because others won't listen anyway (Defeatism)
While parents and teachers may just want to instill manners + kindness (so their child doesn't grow up to be a boorish egomaniac :), they probably went overboard. A sensitive child can absorb these negative beliefs too deeply + too wholeheartedly - They grow into adults who struggle to decide what they want for breakfast for fear it might offend someone ;)
As discussed in part 1, having boundary issues doesn't mean anything negative about you. You are just as capable as someone with healthy boundaries (although you typically don't KNOW it).
Why bother to change this pattern?
The difference lies in SATISFACTION. Having weak boundaries, when you boil it down, is really nothing but a quality of life issue. It can diminish your sense of self-worth + safety in the world. It can increase anxiety, depression, and cause you to feel lost and out of control. Not to mention, big relationship problems can arise when one person has weak boundaries (especially if the other person has very firm boundaries). This pattern can also prevent you from understanding and pursuing your goals fully.
In addition, people with weak boundaries may struggle to feel supported in relationships. They may not want to get close to people because they fear being dominated by everyone else's agenda. They don't know how to balance this in relationships; so they tend to just give in completely to others. (In other cases, they may become angry + overwhelmed, causing them to snap at people). Overall, there may be a sense that once you let people into your life, things get complicated. Thus people with boundary issues may feel like they have to choose between being an anti-social hermit or a complete pushover. You can't live with people, but you can't seem to live without them.
It's a delicate balance, but we must learn to find something between those extremes to have a better quality of life and a stronger sense of self. In other words, we have to get in there + do the dirty work of BOTH compromising and asserting ourselves. Since a lot of people with weak boundaries have the compromise part down pat, we'll be talking about self-assertion next week.
Part 3 will discuss exactly how to practice identifying + asserting your boundaries comfortably. Stay tuned!