Are feelings of guilt stopping you from setting boundaries with people in your life, especially with people you love? These feelings of guilt can range from just feeling bad to even feeling acute shame which affects mental health.
Often, these feelings of guilt arise because you don’t believe that you should prioritise yourself over other people. This can stem from a lack of confidence, a tendency to people-please and just from being a very empathetic person!
Setting boundaries can actually increase feelings of self-worth, and therefore decrease those feelings of shame when you tell someone you love ‘no’!
The Boundary Guide:
- How do you know it’s time to set boundaries?
- Why am I feeling guilty?
- Why are boundaries important?
- How do I set boundaries?
- What if my boundaries cause me to lose people?
How do you know it’s time to set boundaries?
There are lots of signs that you might lack personal boundaries. Some key traits are:
- Feeling a little bit annoyed all the time
- Feeling like others don’t respect you
- You feel like you’re the victim in most situations
- You have a fear of abandonment or relationships ending
Feeling a little bit annoyed all the time
If you’re always feeling a little bit annoyed, it’s probably because you feel like your needs aren’t being met. This is particularly the case in relationships or close friendships.
If you have a friend who calls you three times a week, talks about themselves for an hour and then, when they ask about you, they sound disinterested, then your emotional needs aren’t met. Adding to this, you’re putting far more into the relationship than they are which can cause you to feel a little bitter towards the friendship.
Feeling like others don’t respect you
Do you feel like your friends and family don’t respect you? And that they take advantage of your time and energy without being grateful enough of it? The truth is, they probably don’t truly value your time because you give it to them so freely.
If you say ‘no, I can’t speak right now, but we can chat on Tuesday night’ rather than ‘yeah, we can chat, I’ll stop what I’m doing!’, they’ll begin to value and respect the time you’re giving them.
You feel like you’re the victim in most situations
If you feel like you’re exiting most relationships (friends or romantic partners) as the victim, it’s probably because you feel like your boundaries or time were disrespected. While this might be the case, if the people around you don’t have an understanding of your boundaries, then how do they know what will hurt you or make you feel upset?
You have a fear of abandonment or relationships ending
If you have a fear of relationships ending, you might be a people-pleaser who allows people to overstep your boundaries in order to keep them in your life. Often, feelings like this can be traced back to childhood. Other than getting therapy, you need to work on enjoying your own company and not being quite so affected by what other people think of you.
Relationships end all the time. But you’ll always have a relationship with yourself, so make sure it’s a good one.
Why am I feeling guilty?
Whether you stay up at night thinking about the boundaries you set with people, or if you avoid setting them altogether, the reason why you feel shame is simple. It’s because you believe that the needs of others are more important than your own needs.
If you’re someone who is very empathetic and is the ‘therapist’ of your friend groups, you need to realise that you can’t support everyone else unless you support yourself. Remember when you fly and the air hostess tells you to put your mask on before helping others? It’s just like that.
It’s time to change your inner monologue and start putting yourself first.
Guilt is a nasty feeling. It tricks you into putting yourself last just to avoid those awful feelings of shame. Psychology Today actually suggests writing a letter to your guilt and telling it what it does to you. This will help you gain objectivity and actively begin to set boundaries in your life.
Why are boundaries important?
Setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill in itself. They set the blueprint for how you expect to be treated. And trust me, only good things will come from setting them with the people you love.
By identifying what your boundaries are and clearly setting them, you will develop:
- A clear sense of self
- Respect for yourself
- Respect for other people when they set boundaries with you
Understanding your own wants and needs, and feeling like you can meet them sounds amazing, right? If you feel conflicted about who you are and what you want, setting boundaries will help you achieve this.
And they might be different depending on who you set them with. It’s ok to have stronger boundaries with new friends or someone you don’t trust. It’s about protecting and growing within yourself.
How do I set boundaries?
When you finally start setting boundaries, you’ll experience a tough lesson in how to communicate. You need to learn to understand what you want and then tell your loved ones what that is in a way which is direct but not aggressive.
You also need to give yourself permission to set those boundaries, with the objective understanding that you’ll feel guilty and you can’t always control how you feel. However, it will get easier with time.
One of the best ways to give yourself permission is to ensure that you understand where you are (with your relationship with others and with yourself) and where you want to be.
When you’re undergoing a process of boundary-setting, make sure that your practice self-care. It’s a time of growth and developing understanding, so set some time aside to understand how you’re feeling and react accordingly. This could range from a bubble bath to writing your own affirmations.
What if my boundaries cause me to lose people?
If someone in your life doesn’t respect your boundaries, then do they deserve your time? Your time is precious – it’s the only thing you can’t get back!
As someone who has actively removed people from my life, I can guarantee that this will only help you grow. You’ll be able to identify people who are bad for your mental health faster, and you’ll find a community of people who love and respect you sooner.