How To Set Authentic (Not Defensive) Boundaries
I’ve seen many people in their personal evolution become extremely defensive in their attempts to create boundaries with the people who they become blatantly aware have trespassed upon them. This is especially true for codependents who’re just coming into their awareness that they are indeed, codependent (which can most certainly be transformed into a strength rather than a weakness). Usually, this is a family situation where the “victim” becomes self righteously aligned with the vibration of the perpetrator they’re trying to defend themselves against.
When the patterns become clear, they’ll want to call up their mother, father, sister, brother and tell them off, or cut them off, or worse, interact with them in a passive-aggressive but in their eyes, more “empowered” way than they ever have before. Here is where they stand on guard like a defense to a soccer goalie waiting for the offense to come into their territory. That’s literally the worst way to foster genuine connection because under this paradigm, keeping your eye on the ball, you’re always waiting to be offended, and you’re all sorts of geared up to defend yourself. There’s no room for play here, only a winner and a loser.
Most people who struggle with boundaries struggle because the people who “taught” them boundaries also struggled with boundaries, which makes boundaries themselves, unclear in “how” to implement. Ideally, I’m here to serve your evolution today in a way that makes boundaries a blessing rather than a curse for all those involved.
SEE ALSO: Is Forgiveness Important?
How Boundaries Become Harmful
Boundaries for those of us who’ve been violated, who never want to make anyone feel the way we felt when ours were crossed, are hard because boundaries were likely used as a punishment rather than a statement of truth. We accidentally did something wrong as children at a young age, unclear about how the world works yet. And rather than being taught what to do right, our parents scolded us for doing something wrong and likely left us hanging at that. “That was wrong. That was bad and here’s your punishment.”
Under this condition, there’s likely no repair in the relationship once we crossed “their” boundary, so we walked away feeling shame, guilt, and bad for existing at all. Never do we want to make anyone feel that way, so we become doormats giving everyone in the world what we think they want, except ourselves.
That is until we realize this’ll keep us sick, broke, and disconnected from the truth which is the point where many people find themselves angry at all of the boundary violations they’ve faced that pushed them to the point of being a doormat; putting everyone first and themselves second. Here’s where I see defensive, rather than authentic boundaries come into play. Defensive boundaries aren’t healing anyone’s situation, they’re just stirring the shit pot of the harm we’re trying to avoid by turning the tables on who’s harmed.
Every person in your life who you need to set boundaries with is teaching you something very important. You’ve just gotta pinpoint exactly what it is they’re teaching you so you can facilitate an honorable exchange when it’s time to hit up the boundaries department.
Authentic Versus Defensive Boundaries
A client of mine has a story so many of us can relate to with a crystal clear example for understanding the difference between authentic versus defensive boundaries.
Her father, an entrepreneur, highly focused on success her entire life, but to her inner child, success at the cost of his family where it counts most, constantly asks her how the job that she hates is going. It’s also the job he alludes to being acceptable for his standards of success. Not wanting to be a disappointment to him but also not wanting to be a disappointment to herself by selling out in a career she doesn’t believe in, each time he questions her, she closes down and gets shamefully silent and internally resentful when the topic arises.
The only other option she can foresee to ensure this issue is a non-issue is to tell him off. I see this time and time again among women who know they need to but don’t know “how” to create boundaries. An authentic boundary is this: “Dad, what your entrepreneurship has taught me most is to never settle for working in a situation that doesn’t make me happy. Though I didn’t always understand the value of that lesson the way I do now, now that I get it, I’ve decided to leave my job to pursue the things that feel genuine to me. Thank you so much for the lesson. I’m finally at a point where I trust myself to live into it, just like you did when you decided to stop working for other people to create your business.”
A defensive boundary is this: “Dad, I hate my job which should’ve been obvious to you for years so please stop fucking asking! Seriously!”
Boundaries are not Punishments
Boundaries were never intended to be punishments. They’re intended to be fences around territories we find worth protecting. We don’t have to set them until someone crosses them and when they do, what we must realize is that the person crossing them is teaching us something about ourselves we didn’t necessarily know before they encroached too far into our territory.
We must pinpoint what that thing is that they’re teaching us so we can reflect it back to them so we can approach boundaries as a gift to the person we’re setting them with, rather than a punishment. It seems counter-intuitive to consider setting boundaries as a gift but it’s the most intuitive, natural, wholesome way to approach boundaries because eventually the people we let walk on us, we’ll demonize and throw out of our lives, unable to form a genuinely present and honest relationship with them. Or worse yet, we’ll stay a pissed off, sick and broke doormat, abandoning ourselves for the sake of “them”, our entire lives.
Our boundaries are an offering for the person we’re setting them with to take us up on being in an authentic relationship with us and that is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give them because you’re giving them the REAL you; the ‘you’ where your vulnerability is your power and your power is in your willingness to protect your own vulnerability if need be.
Look deeply for the lessons the people you need to set boundaries with have taught you, and use them to reflect the gifts they’ve given you. Not only does it gift them the opportunity to know you in the truth you’ve been hiding from them, it gives you an opportunity to teach that boundaries aren’t punishments we once feared, but fences to keep your own dogs in the yard and robbers, out. By all standards, fences aren’t only acceptable, they’re often very beautiful.
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