Everything You Need to Know About Unhealthy Boundaries

Disclaimer

Do you feel walked on?

Taken advantage of?

Angry?

After an encounter, do you feel disappointed for not standing up for yourself more?

Many people struggle with creating healthy boundaries. It’s not easy and can seem scary and daunting at first.

Some people know they have unhealthy boundaries (or none) and yet, continue on anyway.

Others aren’t even aware and think violations are normal. It’s just the way it is.

I’m here to tell you it’s not normal. It doesn’t have to be that way. You’re not exaggerating or blowing things out of proportion like some people will try to make you feel.

I’m here to make you aware of these unhealthy boundaries and how to fix them.

Red Flags

Below are some red flags that you’re not upholding boundaries:

Feeling Resentment (At Yourself)

Resentment comes from being taken advantage of and not appreciated. It’s a sign that we’re pushing ourselves beyond our limits because we feel guilty or someone else is imposing expectations on us.

Feeling Uncomfortable

If someone acts in a way that makes us uncomfortable, that’s a sign they might be violating or crossing a boundary.

Over-enmeshment

No individuality. Everyone must be the same, and no one can stray from the norm.

Disassociation

Blanking out during a stressful event. You might be out of touch with your feelings or even lose memories of the event where you feel physically or emotionally violated. Sometimes we say things like, “it doesn’t matter. If I ignore it it will go away. There’s no sense in fighting, it will only make it worse and it will be over soon anyway.”

Excessive Detachment

No one in the group has any connection to each other. Everyone is independent of everyone else. Nothing holds you together, and there is nothing in common between you. The fear of losing personal identities cultivates the lack of desire to draw together and form a union.

Victimhood or Martyrdom

You identify as a victim. You become overly defensive to protect yourself from future violations, or you accept your victimization, continue to be knowingly victimized, and let others know of your martyrdom.

Holding Grudges

You hold onto anger from past violations with the real or perceived ignoring of your rights. You dare people to come too close because you want to fight.

Invisibility

The goal is not to be seen or heard, so boundaries are not violated. You might draw yourself in or be over-controlling, so others don’t know how you’re feeling or thinking.

Shyness or Aloofness

You reject others before they can reject you. This can result from insecurity from real or perceived experiences of being ignored or dismissed in the past. Being ignored or rejected in the past could feel like a violation of your efforts to expand your boundaries to include others in your space.

Distant

You build a wall so others cannot invade your space. This can be a defense mechanism from previous hurt or violations to keep them out and put them off.

Smothering

This results from another person being overly interested in your needs and interests. It is excessively intrusive into your space and can feel overwhelming like you’re being strangled, held too tight, or lack the freedom to breathe on your own.

Lack of Privacy

You feel you don’t have a private space where you can be your own person. You feel that nothing you think, feel, or do is your own. You’re expected to report to others your feelings, opinions, relationships, and interactions with the world.

Signs Of Unhealthy Boundaries

You have no filter in what you say. You tell everything, talking intimately on the first meeting.

You fall in love with a new acquaintance or anyone who reaches out.

You feel overwhelmed by someone.

You act on your first sexual impulse.

You go against your personal values or rights to please others.

You don’t notice when someone else displays inappropriate boundaries or invades yours.

You accept things (touch, food, or material items) that you don’t want.

You touch another person without their permission.

You take as much as you can just for the sake of it. Or the opposite of giving as much as you can just for the sake of giving.

You allow someone else to take as much as they can from you.

You let others direct your life, describe your reality, or define you.

You believe others can anticipate your needs.

You expect others to fill your needs automatically.

You fall apart so that someone will take care of you.

You self-abuse – physical abuse or abusing sex or food.

All of these start with “you.”

It can be hard to accept responsibility, but ultimately, if we don’t accept our own responsibility, we can’t change our future relationships with ourselves or others.

Unhealthy Boundary Thinking

Healthy Boundary Thinking

Allows boundaries to be ignored or violated.

Allows you to create and maintain healthy boundaries.

  • I can’t say no to others.
  • It’s my job to hold them together.
  • I can’t trust anyone again.
  • I would feel guilty if I did something on my own and left my family/group/partner out of it.
  • If I keep my mouth shut and don’t complain, eventually, they’ll leave me alone.
  • I won’t be violated or hurt if I stay hidden and invisible.
  • If I disassociate and do not pay attention to my rights, needs, or space being violated, I don’t have to feel the pain and the hurt.
  • I will put up these walls so no one can ever get close enough to hurt me again.
  • I can’t tell where to draw the line with others.
  • I have a right to say no if it is an invasion of my space or a violation of my rights.
  • I have a right to take care of myself. They all can take equal responsibility to stay together as a group.
  • I have a right to grow and deepen my relationships with others. If my space or rights become violated or ignored, I will assertively protect myself to ensure I’m not hurt.
  • I have the right and need to do things on my own or that are unique to me so that I don’t become so wound up in others that I lose my identity.
  • I will not allow my space and rights to be violated. I have the right to leave them or ask them to leave my life.
  • I have a right to be seen and heard. I will stand up for myself so that others can learn to respect my rights and needs and not violate my space.
  • I choose to no longer disassociate from my feelings when I am being mistreated. This awareness allows me to assert myself and protect myself from further violation and hurt.
  • I choose to open myself up to others, trusting that I will be assertive to protect my needs and rights from being violated. I do not need to put up boundaries or be cold and distant to avoid getting hurt.
  • I have drawn a line that I will not allow others to cross. This line ensures I have privacy and autonomy. I am me behind this line, not the way others want me to be. I let others know that this line exists. I can clearly see where I end, and they begin. This line won’t be crossed so that a healthy relationship is maintained with each other.

Before You Go

Now that you know how to tell when there is an unhealthy boundary, you can start creating healthy boundaries. Start by noticing these areas or relationships in your life that need work.

Honor and listen to yourself and your feelings. They’re important cues.

Know that anger is not wrong. It should be motivating. It tells you when something isn’t right, but we tend to stuff it down.

Recognize unhealthy boundary thinking and make the shift into healthy boundary thinking. It won’t be easy and won’t fix overnight, but it will be worth it.

Check out this other post that goes more in-depth on creating and establishing healthy boundaries.

Reference:

uwec.edu/counsel/pubs/unhealthyboundaries.html

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