For those of us who were raised by narcissists or mentally and/or physically abusive parents, boundary setting is something that we have to consciously work on because it does not come naturally.
Patterns Formed During Childhood
You see, as children, many of us learned that in order to receive love from our parents, we had to please them, which meant denying ourselves and sacrificing our own needs. If we didn’t please them, we were punished by the withdrawal of love…or worse, being physically or mentally punished.
And so this is how we learned that our needs do not matter. We learned that if we simply focused on making others happy, this was the path to peace and love. And it worked. So we kept doing this, thinking that we were doing good in the world. Pleasing others made us feel like the peace-makers and spreaders of love.
Growing up, some of us may have also had additional reinforcement of this behavior as being “a noble cause” due to the religious beliefs of our parents. These beliefs might have also passed along to us and then incorporated into our our own belief system.
Then as we became adults, we continued this pattern of deriving our own personal value at the thought of being such great peace makers and people pleasers. However, we did so at our own expense, unbeknownst to us. We attached a high value to how well we make others feel. It seems quite a noble cause, so why question it?
Breaking The Cycle
What broke the cycle for me was when as a young adult, I started to tune into my own energy and my intuition.
I started to learn to listen to my instinct, my intuition. Through observation of patterns, I learned that my instinct (that very quiet internal voice or knowing) was always right over time.
I noticed that when I went against my intuition, I would end up making the wrong decision. And when I listed to it, even if logically it didn’t make sense, it always led me in the right direction.
After starting a yoga practice, I also started tuning into the feeling of my energy inside my body. I’d began to notice a feeling of comfort or discomfort in my energy as my guide to knowing what was right or wrong for me.
Your body gives you signals that are there to guide you. No one taught me that growing up, I had to learn on my own.
Thankfully I went down that journey of feeling my energy and trusting my intuition. Doing so naturally helped me start to break my automatic people-pleasing patterns.
It Takes A Conscious Effort and Constant Practice
But I have to say, as much work I’ve done in this area, holding boundaries is still one of my biggest challenges. It’s extremely difficult going against programming that was instilled during childhood.
The programming we received as children is our default behavior because we simply weren’t raised around anything else. We simply don’t know how to practice anything else. It’s quite foreign for bred people pleasers.
That’s why it takes a conscious effort and constant practice to learn new behavior patterns and break old ones.
So for example, some of my biggest boundary tests have come into play when dating. When you are used to making sure everyone else is comfortable before your own comfort, you set the stage for others to feel free to cross your boundaries. This happens because you’ve already taken on the role of ensuring that others are comfortable before yourself.
But how does anyone know where your boundaries are if you don’t express them? Boundaries not only help you, but they also helps others understand how to treat you.
How you treat yourself is how you teach others to treat you. You have to show them the way by becoming in tune with your own level of comfort or discomfort and then honoring that.
You have to learn not to worry about what others think or concern yourself with their comfort level. Your comfort level must become your first priority.
How you feel is what’s most important. How they feel is not your responsibility.
And as you do start to protect your boundaries, you’ll realized that others usually don’t react negatively at all. How your parents would have reacted is NOT how most others would react.
It just takes time, practice and being brave enough to stand up for yourself.
When you realize this wholeheartedly, you learn how to break free from the patterns that have previously held you back from fearlessly protecting your precious boundaries.