I was struck recently by the exceptionally high number of clients I see, whose inability to set firm personal boundaries is resulting in supersonic stress levels. Smart business people repeatedly compromised by unreliable colleagues, over demanding superiors or downright crooked clients; caring, supportive people with predatory partners or out of control children. People of integrity whose opportunistic friends, family or employees manipulate them mercilessly and drain their time and energy.
Why People Have Boundary Issues
Although their stories are all quite different, these are some common threads that connect people with boundary challenges:
- They are all natural born givers and people pleasers.
- Their personal boundaries are weak or non existent.
- Their goals are fuzzy.
- Their empathy triggers and guilt glands are super-sensitive.
- They are popular.
And that’s the clue.
Sometimes the personal price you pay for this kind of popularity can be way too high. Depending on others to peg your value is a fast track to stress. Why? Because it means other people control your choices in everything you do. They always have the leverage advantage.
This not only leads to self sabotage but it can be dangerous too.
The Danger Of Approval
Being overly dependent on other’s approval can make you go against everything you value, if the threat of exclusion from what you perceive as any kind of “inner circle” is terrifying enough. The plots of many thrillers are based on exactly this dynamic. We all crave validation and respect but at what cost?
An inability to set healthy boundaries means sooner or later someone is going to have to pick up the slack—and your place in the popularity polls will plummet. The reason everyone loves you is probably because you do what they want—at the expense of what you want.
Whose life is this anyway?
Although it wasn’t always comfortable, growing up a wild child in a small town with an eccentric family certainly put people pleasing in its right place for me. I learned at an early age not to care too deeply about other people’s opinions. And this immunity to popular opinion helped me make my own rules. As far as I was concerned, if my actions gave those with empty lives something fascinating to focus on, I was performing a community service!
When people praise or validate you, accept it; enjoy it, but don’t become dependent on it. You know whether you have done well or not. Next time you are tempted to cave in order to win popularity, consider these
20 Benefits Of Boundary Building
- Setting boundaries saves time.
- Setting boundaries builds respectful relationships.
- Setting boundaries increases productivity—yours and everyone else’s.
- Setting boundaries enables a team to work as a team—everyone is headed in the same direction, towards the same clear goals.
- Setting boundaries builds accountability within your team—no passing the buck.
- Setting boundaries stops you feeling overwhelmed, resentful, victimized and stressed.
- Setting boundaries frees up energy and enthusiasm.
- Setting boundaries fosters confidence, leadership, and organizational abilities.
- Setting boundaries generates respect.
- Setting boundaries aids concentration and decision making.
- Setting boundaries creates a healthy balance between giving and taking.
- Setting boundaries allows you to take care of your own wellbeing.
- Setting boundaries leads to a happy, balanced life.
- Setting boundaries minimizes misunderstanding and conflict.
- Setting boundaries gives you a sense of control in your life.
- Setting boundaries makes delegating more effective.
- Setting boundaries teaches family and team members to think for themselves.
- Setting boundaries vastly improves communication—everyone knows where they stand and what is expected of them.
- Setting boundaries goes a long way towards preventing bullying.
- Setting boundaries gives you an authentic sense of authority. Your boundary building expertise automatically acts as a map for the people who relate to you in any way.
The Benefits Of Strong Boundaries
Boundaries spell R E S P E C T on every level—and shape the way people respond to you. If you put inappropriate parts into a machine that is vital for production, will you get maximum production?
Success requires putting the right people, with the right qualities, in the right place, for the right reasons—in every area of your life. Yes you might well have to do some reshuffling to accomplish this. And people pleasers find this very painful. They would rather struggle on for years, having their relationships, careers or health sabotaged, dragging the deadweight of dead wood behind them, silently picking up the slack and stressing themselves into ill health—than just take a stand.
Drawing firm boundaries doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you care enough about the bigger picture, to take the necessary actions.
It doesn’t mean you don’t like someone. It means you understand where they belong in your life—and where they don’t. It just means you are placing the right components in the right place to maximize the chances of a successful outcome for all. And yes, when you first install personal boundaries, you will face criticism. Not everyone will understand why, and some will take it personally, but they will get over it. And the wear and tear on your stress-o-meter will be worth it a thousand times over.
What do you think?