Physical boundaries are pretty easy to spot. It’s clear why you need things like locking doors, fences, and room darkening panel curtains. Physical boundaries let the good things in and keep the bad things out. But there are other types of boundaries you might be overlooking. Emotional boundaries aren’t as easy to see, but they’re just as important. Especially with family, emotional boundaries are easily blurred if you don’t make them clear. The holiday season is typically when you see family the most. People unload serious baggage this time of year and I’m not just talking about their carry-on luggage. If you don’t have proper boundaries with your family, in-laws, or even friends – there’s a lot of unnecessary stress added to the Holidays.
Here’s the truth: Confident people are masters at creating, communicating, and enforcing their emotional boundaries. So I’m sharing 3 signs you might need emotional boundaries in your life – and how to start building them.
Your Energy is Always Drained
When you think of boundaries, you probably imagine things like cutting off a toxic relationship, quitting a soul sucking job, etc. Those are signs an emotional boundary is too low and needs to be raised. However, boundaries allow good things in just as much as they keep bad things out. Being independent is great, but we’re not meant to live entirely on our own. If you struggle to ask for or accept help, you’ll eventually run out of energy. This stems from a lack of trust. You’re not comfortable being vulnerable with people, so you keep everything to yourself. Maybe you’re unable to accept compliments or thank-yous.It can even be something as simple as insisting no one buys you gifts or pays for dinner because you want to be independent.
On a deeper emotional level, it can look like not expressing your true feelings because you’re afraid of rejection. These are all signs an emotional boundary is too high, and needs to be lowered. It’s like when people say, “you need to let me in” – that’s them asking you to trust them enough to lower that emotional boundary and literally let them inside. The most confident people know that vulnerability is the ultimate sign of strength. You can be independent without doing everything yourself.
The next time someone offers you something, accept it. This can be big or small, the goal is to practice allowing “the good” into your life and trusting people really do care about you.
You’re Not Prioritizing Your Needs
Believe it or not, you’re 100% in control of your actions. But just because you’re in control, doesn’t mean you’re aligning your actions with your needs. It’s like owning a car and handing over the keys. The car is still yours, but you’re letting someone else drive. Soon, you realize you’re not yourself anymore, you never spend time doing things you enjoy, and you might even start resenting the people you love. Even when you have healthy relationships, you can get lost in them if you don’t have emotional boundaries. It feels like you’re spinning out of control and just can’t stop it.
Maybe you always let your sister choose the menu for Thanksgiving, or you’re so concerned about the kids having fun – you forget about yourself. This is a sign you have an emotional boundary that’s too low and needs to be raised. When you say “yes” to one thing, you’re inherently saying “no” to another. So often we feel guilty for saying “no” to someone else. However, when you’re putting everyone else’s needs before your own, the person you keep saying “no” to is yourself. Saying “no” to others so you have energy for yourself is actually one of the most powerful forms of self care you can practice. Plus – when people really care about you, they want you to do things you enjoy, just because YOU enjoy them!
Start communicating your preferences. If someone asks you what you want to eat at a family Holiday, suggest things you like! Practice saying “yes” to your preferences, even if it’s something as simple as asking to have your favorite flavor of pie – instead of settling for what everyone else likes.
You Allow Negative Self Talk
Everyone questions their abilities now and then. That’s normal, but what happens when the majority of your thoughts are critical? Allowing the negative self talk, your inner “mean girl”, whatever you want to call it, to take over is a sign of low emotional boundaries with yourself. Yes, you can be your own biggest bully. That also means you can be your own biggest cheerleader. I like to say, “when the problem is you, the solution is also you.” It all comes down to practicing confidence instead of criticism. Setting boundaries with yourself makes it easier to set boundaries with others.
Train yourself to identify what situations trigger the “inner critic” and be mindful while you do them. The situations might be unavoidable – like seeing your sister-in-law at Christmas who’s a Barre instructor with perfect skin.
Instead of comparing yourself and feeling bad – create a boundary within your thoughts that goes like this, “when I see attractive, successful women – I know I’m not in competition with them, we’re both on our unique journey” Then, re-route your inner talk-track to something encouraging and supportive, like this, “She is a wonderful member of this family and so am I. The fact she has a toned body doesn’t make her better or worse than anyone in this room.” It’s challenging to follow through on these! Try writing them down and putting them in a place you can easily see to help hold you accountable.
What we believe – we create. Our beliefs are formed by our thoughts, so choose wisely!
Lowering your emotional boundaries can bring deeper connections into your life by trusting people enough to care for you. When you raise an emotional boundary, you create space to focus on yourself. You stop feeling guilty about things you enjoy, and you don’t run the risk of “losing yourself” in relationships. Finally, emotional boundaries with yourself set the tone for how everyone else treats you. Setting expectations with your own thoughts gives you the power to take back ownership of your energy and start “driving your own car” again. Remember, you really are in control of the way you feel. With the right emotional boundaries, you can be confident that no matter what – you’ve always got your back!