Healthy emotional boundaries and healthy boundaries in a marriage or any relationship are critical to being fulfilled.
Unfortunately, many women, and especially abuse survivors, have had their boundaries crossed multiple times and thus have a hard time maintaining healthy boundaries.
As a result, I do a lot of physical boundary exercises with clients where I instruct them to literally create a physical boundary around their space, using long ropes. These exercises are powerful and often are the first time, ever, that a woman is able to claim her own space and keep others out.
Up until recently, I thought I was pretty firm with my own physical, mental and emotional boundaries. For sure, physical boundaries have never been an issue for me. As someone who has an avoidant attachment style, I have no problem keeping people out of my physical and energetic space.
However, boundaries come in all shapes and sizes, and most of them are not physical.
Your boundary may easily be crossed when someone asks you to do something that you’d rather not do but you find yourself doing it anyway.
This makes sense because as a child you were conditioned to have your boundaries routinely crossed by parents, teachers, and other authority figures. At some point, usually around adolescence, you began to push back and establish some boundaries of your own.
However, boundary-crossing, especially by those whose love and approval you were constantly seeking, became a conditioned response which you brought forward into adulthood.
This, by the way, is one of the biggest challenges that couples have in their relationships. Not being able to express and hold their boundaries in an attempt to appease their partner. For example, having obligation sex, also know as service sex, is a very common boundary-crossing.
I’m pretty comfortable holding my boundaries in a sexual setting after learning what happens when I don’t the hard way. However, I realized in the past few weeks that boundary setting in my business needs some serious improvement!
There is a deep part of me that doesn’t want to disappoint someone else, especially if they are someone whose approval I am seeking. Not surprisingly, this deep wound comes from a narcissistic mother who was impossible to please.
My desire to appease will often override my better judgment and sometimes even my intuition.
This boundary challenge has caused me to take some actions that I didn’t want to take..but did anyway. Earlier this month I agreed not to cancel a workshop, that was under-enrolled and was complicating some other business plans, for fear of disappointing the program director who worked tirelessly to get the workshop approved.
Even my co-facilitator wanted to cancel the workshop, but my fear of disapproval overrode her objections as well.
I also violated my own boundary in agreeing to attend a one day workshop on the East Coast during a very challenging period of time for me.
Again, my intuition told me strongly to cancel my plans, but I felt pressure from the workshop leader and agreed to attend.
This time my body spoke up when my voice couldn’t.
I ended up canceling the entire trip when I woke up the day before I was supposed to leave with a massive migraine which completely immobilized me. It took that amount of physical pain for me to realize that this was again a boundary issue and I needed to listen to my body.
Boundary issues can be tricky and can disguise themselves as so many other things.
But they so often come down to women’s innate desire to please, to caretake, and place everyone else’s needs in front of our own.
I know that I’ve learned some hard lessons this past month and will be super vigilant to ensure that if I’m not a “Hell Yes”, I’m a “No”.