"Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment." ― Brené Brown
This subject is a tough one for me, because well into adulthood I didn’t have any boundaries. Or when I tried to set boundaries I was constantly told that I was selfish and made to feel less than for having my own needs and feelings.
I distinctly remember being told by a very dear friend long ago that my boundaries must be in China! I knew she was right, yet it still hurt. She told me this after years of watching me be verbally and emotionally abused by my then husband. Each time I came to her crying she would listen and try, once again, to help me understand that the relationship was dysfunctional, based in part on my own lack of boundaries. But I was stuck. Stuck in fear and stuck in guilt. Sure signs that I lacked boundaries. Because each time my husband treated me in a way that was disrespectful and abusive I became an emotional wreck, riddled with stress and anxiety. More signs.
Boundaries are a confusing subject. Let’s face it, we mostly learn about boundaries by how they are being modeled for us at home. Very often our parents either don’t have healthy boundaries, or they are inconsistent which sends mixed messages.
In order to set healthy boundaries we need to be in touch with our needs and know that they matter. We also need to be in touch with our feelings and know that they are valid. But many of us struggle with self-worth and tend to judge our feelings as being right or wrong. Perhaps as a society we are not very compassionate because we ignore our own needs and feelings to please others and we feel resentful. Maybe, just maybe, if we put our own needs first (which most deem to be selfish) we could be more authentic, kinder and less judgmental. Setting boundaries also requires practice and consistency. And courage. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to tell someone the truth. We fear we will hurt someone else’s feelings.