Having healthy boundaries helps us be conscious and intentional, leading us to feel – and be empowered. I once read that,
🔹Having healthy boundaries is like windows and doors that we open and close, letting only those we want inside.
🔹Having unhealthy boundaries is like having all our windows and doors wide open where anybody can come through or closed off where nobody can come in.
In Part 1, I discussed the importance of healthy boundaries – especially in times of stress, change, and uncertainty – like what we have recently been experiencing.
In Part 2, I discussed the differences between healthy and unhealthy boundaries, what causes us to adopt either, and their advantages and disadvantages.
Unhealthy boundaries cause issues in all areas of our life.
Unhealthy boundaries are either be too wide open or too closed off. Both come from a place of low self-worth, and they create havoc in our emotional world – and our relationships.
Closed boundaries keep us emotionally distanced from others, and the range of possibilities life may offer us.
Wide-open boundaries keep us too reliant on others or outside influences for our happiness and sense of self-worth.
If too closed, we must open our boundaries a little so that we can live an emotionally satisfying life and are open to all of life’s possibilities
If too open, we must close our boundaries up a little, so we can live an empowered life relying on our strengths and sense of inner-self for our peace and happiness.
(These blog posts are all based on my books.
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Recognizing Unhealthy Boundaries
To address weak/unhealthy boundaries, we first look to what is causing us angst in our lives and our relationships. Here are a few clues that we have weak/unhealthy boundaries:
🔹We often become frustrated, get hurt feelings, or are angered when others do not acquiesce to our wants, desires, requests, or expectations.
🔹We do not feel loved or valued in our relationships
🔹We do not feel appreciated for all that we do for others
🔹We always seem to have the issues crop up with people
🔹We choose friends or partners and then become disenchanted with them
🔹We feel that others do not understand us
🔹We blame others for our unhappiness
🔹 We feel stuck in life and cannot seem to move forward.
It Is More About Us than the Other
Although we may feel that our hurts, pains, disappointments, and issues are because of the other person or that circumstances are always going again us, it is more of a reflection of us – and what we allowed – or didn’t allow because …
Whenever we rely on what another says or does – or doesn’t say or doesn’t do, we are depending on them to make us feel good.
Whenever we feel that life is not fair and always seems against us, we are relying on others or outside circumstances to dictate our lives.
When we think or feel in these ways, we have given our power away. We are coming from a place of disempowerment.
Our boundaries may have been too wide-open, and we let the other influence us to the point that their ideas, opinions, or energies trumped ours, OR
Our boundaries were too closed off, and we blocked another out to the point that we discounted any help, ideas, or suggestions, or we allowed our defenses to block any love they may have been offering us.
Having strong and healthy boundaries comes from a place of empowerment. Being empowered, we automatically create strong and healthy boundaries.
Being empowered and having healthy and strong boundaries work in tandem with each other.
Working on one helps the other.
To create healthier boundaries, we must first look at the ways we may be navigating life:
- How Conscious/Intentional We Are
- How We Process Our Feelings
- Our Default Reactionary Style
1) How Conscious/Intentional We Are
The quality of the choices we make – how conscious and intentional we are in our choices and how much we have vetted others and circumstances indicates the health of our boundaries.
The more conscious and intentional we are – the healthier our boundaries will be. We will be – and feel more empowered in life, avoid upsets, and be happier in our relationships.
2) How We Process Our Feelings
How in touch we are with our true feelings and how much past unresolved wounds influence our feelings affects the strength of our boundaries.
The more we understand and are conscious of our feelings, the healthier our boundaries will be. We will feel happier and more contented and will be able to create and maintain more harmonious relationships.
3) Our Default Reactionary Style
Our default reactions – whether we react appropriately to others and situations, overreact, or are overly passive – are a good indication of the strength of our boundaries.
Being overly reactive or passive indicates that we allow others to affect our sense of peace and happiness.
Being aware of – and managing inappropriate reactions will help us feel happier and more peaceful and ensure healthier relationships.
If we see ourselves in the first list, “Recognizing Unhealthy Boundaries,” looking into the three ways we may be navigating life is an excellent start to understanding the path to creating healthier boundaries and reaping the benefits. And it is SO worth it, because …
Creating healthy boundaries makes a HUGE difference to our peace, happiness, self-esteem, sense of empowerment, and the health of our relationships.
Wide Open Boundaries
When our boundaries are too open, we are distanced our power base – from our True Self and the sense of self-worth it gives us. And so, we look outside of our self to fill in the gaps.
Wide-open boundaries keep us looking to – and relying on others and what is outside of us. We may:
🔹Lean on others in improper ways – emotionally or physically
🔹Attempt to draw others in – to our dramas or emotional world
🔹Allow others to over-lean on us – to an unhealthy degree
🔹 Overextend Our Self to Others – or the world – unnecessarily and to our detriment.
Leaning on Others
When we lean on others in unsuitable and unhealthy ways, we are looking to draw on their strengths.
We may be shy, tentative, or simply have not learned how to effectively manage our life – either physically, emotionally, or both.
We may expect others to fulfill our emotional needs, always be there for us, constantly please us, answer our every beck-and-call, or fix whatever isn’t working in our life.
We feel frustrated and unloved when our requests or expectations are not met. This causes our self-esteem to suffer even more.
Our frustrations then may cause us to become reactive or passive, and our relationships suffer.
Drawing Others into Our Dramas or Emotional World
When we attempt to entice others into our dramas or emotional world, we seek validation and support from them. Not having our strong sense of self to draw from, we attempt to engage others into our murky emotional world.
We may be looking for another to commiserate with, argue on issues, validate our feelings, or come up with solutions to our problems, which are often perceived problems.
Rather than accept or agree with solutions, we prefer to go over and over the ins and outs of whatever the day’s subject is. We may be trying to fill a void.
We may also be attempting to create a connection with the other – not realizing this is too much of a one-sided approach and will turn others off.
When We Allow Others to Overly Lean on Us
When we allow others to use us and walk all over us, our sense of self – and self-preservation is weak. We are coming from a place of disempowerment.
We may allow this as an attempt to create an emotional connection, to be accepted, or to feel important or validated in life.
It is also possible that we cannot say no to others or are addicted to pleasing people.
We will eventually feel used, stressed, disappointed, unappreciated, or exhausted. Unless we deal with these feelings effectively, our sense of self will further weaken.
Overextending Our Self to Others – or the World
When we are continuously extending ourselves to others, like always wanting to be helpful, but do so to the point where we get exhausted or feel unappreciated, we are attempting to fill a void in our life.
We may be trying to compensate for an unsatisfying or unfulfilled life, so we extend ourselves to others to feel needed, important, gain respect, or simply feel good about ourselves.
Extending ourselves to others may also be a feeble way of creating an emotional connection with others.
If we are not in touch with our feelings, we are not adept at creating strong emotional bonds with people. Doing things for others may be our way of showing friendship and caring.
There will always be a lot of need in the world – for others and for the variety of worthwhile causes that help move us towards a more compassionate, egalitarian, and healthy world and the planet.
It is good to carve out some time or money to help those less fortunate than us or support worthwhile causes, but we must still maintain our sense of balance.
Overextending our self acts like an avoidance tactic. We focus outside of ourselves to feel good when we need to look inward to strengthen our sense of value, self-worth, and empowerment.
When we don’t know how to – or are not ready to face dealing with our unhappiness, issues, or sense of disempowerment, we may use our energy on others or the outside world instead.
When our boundaries are too closed, we are in protective mode. We lock people out of our life – emotionally or physically.
We are often also closed off to new ideas or suggestions. It is like we live in a box.
Locking people out blocks intimacy with them and any support or suggestions they may be offering us.
Unaddressed Past Wounds and Closed Boundaries
It is a disconnect from our true emotions that causes closed boundaries. And it is unaddressed past pains and wounds that cause this disconnect.
Having been emotionally or physically hurt in the past, we often become protective of our emotional world and defensive towards anything that may echo an old hurt.
This echo causes us to put up walls to protect ourselves from perceived pain.
For example, being constantly yelled at as a child, we would now close up to anyone with a loud voice – even if they were simply passionate and outspoken. This defensive strategy is often unconscious.
Fearful Of Emotional Connections and Intimacy
At our core, we all long for connection and intimacy. And these require a sense of openness.
When we put walls up to protect our emotional world, we distance ourselves from the intimacy and connection we so long for.
Unaddressed past pains and wounds can cause us to be fearful of emotional connections and intimacy.
Say, for example, a parent or someone close to us regularly ignored, shushed, criticized, bullied, belittled, or yelled at us; the safe space for intimacy and connection became corrupted for us.
This corruption created confusion surrounding intimacy and connection, and so we avoid it. It doesn’t feel safe.
Our inability to allow for emotional connections and intimacy may also be caused by growing up in an emotionally distant atmosphere where we never learned how to create it.
And even though we may long for intimacy and connection, subconsciously, it may feel wrong, as it may have been touted as a weakness.
Hiding Our Vulnerabilities
A component of closed boundaries may also be that we are afraid to show our vulnerabilities.
If in the past we were ignored or made to feel less than in any way when we tried to express our vulnerabilities, like our fears or insecurities, we may never feel safe to show our innermost thoughts or feelings.
It is sharing our thoughts and feelings – the good, the bad, and the ugly that creates true intimacy and connection with another. However, we need to feel safe sharing them – especially if we hold any shame or guilt.
Unless we have past experiences – whether ours or what we witnessed that opening up and being vulnerable is emotionally safe, we will avoid doing so.
Closed boundaries leave us feeling lonely and isolated. And it hampers healthy relationships as they need intimacy and connection to grow.
You should only ever let anyone get close to you – emotionally or physically to the degree you are comfortable with.
If you find that your boundaries are too closed or too open, stay tuned as in my next post, I will discuss how to strengthen your boundaries, and share my “Creating Healthy Boundaries” worksheet. Just below are links to my newsletter and Facebook page so you can stay updated.
Copyright©Rosemary McCarthy July 20, 2021.
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here for About my 1st book, Your Journey to Peace, Bridging the Gap Between Religion, Spirituality, Psychology, and Science.”
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here for About Book 2 in the series, Overcoming Our Unconscious Influences, like Anger, Hurt Feelings, Frustrations, Control, Blaming Others for Our Unhappiness – working title. Due out late Spring 2021.
here for About Book 3 in the series, Relationships in an Evolving World – working title. Due out Summer 2021.
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