As written in the dictionary Boundaries are: "a line which marks the limits of an area."
For many highly sensitive people there are no boundaries, it is like open season. In this article I am going to help you to put in place both internal and external boundaries.
Implementing boundaries is a little more challenging, than just the dictionary description.
So let’s first talk about, internal boundaries, we have internal boundaries and we also have external boundaries.
Internal boundaries are a way to hold yourself accountable, with people, with things, and with situations...
If we are not going to uphold them for ourselves, then it’s very hard for other people, to then show us the respect that we deserve, and also holding those boundaries for us.
Internal boundaries is where it really starts, you need to make a decision that, you are going to put this boundary in place.
Making a choice to keep yourself safe from this person, this situation, whatever it is. But also protecting them from you in a way too, right?
Because otherwise, if you are saying to someone, well this is my boundary:
- I need you to say before you come over, or
- I need you to call or
- I don’t have the capacity to hold space for what you are experiencing right now.
Puting in place the boundary that you need, you then need to hold up your end of the bargain.
So through communicating your needs, you’re stating that this is your boundary. You need to hold that boundary, as a way of saying both to yourself and others, that you are deserving and worthy of space for yourself.
Otherwise, if you don’t, if you do it sometimes, but you don’t do it other times, then people in your life aren’t going to know.
They’re not going to know when it is that boundary is in place and when it is not…
So you have to decide on what those boundaries are going to be for you, and then you need to hold the line.
Think about it like this, on the show border patrol, the officers are holding that line no matter what. They’re not chopping and changing depending on how they’re feeling on the day.
That is the border that they have to hold, it is their job to protect the borders and they don’t get to change that. It needs to be the same for you, with your internal boundaries.
You’ve got to hold that line, no matter what, no matter what the day is, no matter how you’re feeling, no matter how much the other person begs…
You have got to hold that boundary, and that is you protecting yourself from the other person, and from the situation. It is also you protecting the other person and situation from you too.
We are only human and boundaries aren’t easy to uphold or even implement, but it is an important thing to do.
We have to draw that line and make sure we stay on our side of the line, the more you stay on your side of the line and uphold your boundaries…
The easier it is for others to respect you and your boundaries.
External boundaries are a way to communicate your needs and values to your loved ones...
External boundaries dictates what is happening outside of you, it is a direct reflection of your reality and experiences.
It is like a mirror been held up to show you where boundaries need to be implemented…
It is a great opportunity to look at your life and seeing where you need to place some boundaries, asking yourself the following questions:
- Where are people stepping over the line all of the time?
- Who do I need to reduce exposure to?
- What situations and/or people drain your energy?
- What similar experiences are you noticing repeating over and over again?
These questions are going to guide you into the areas that are in need of boundaries, and will have a supportive effect on your external reality.
You may have a person in your life that comes to you with every little problem, a clear sign that you need to start to implement external boundaries with that person.
It is not your job to fix everything for everybody, it’s fine to support people of course, but you want to be supporting them in a way that is empowering and teaching them how to support themselves.
This was a lesson that I had to learn with my children, I was essentially doing everything for them all of the time, but then I was watching and seeing, that they weren’t experiencing the personal growth in the way that they should be.
So, I needed to take a step back, both myself and my husband had to take a step back and see where we needed to empower and encourage their independence a little more.
As older teenagers they were very capable and just needed to be reminded. Teaching them how powerful they are, and what they’re really capable of, and what their abilities are.
That was a boundary that I had to put in place, an external boundary to show them, this is your responsibility now.
So for you, it’s about looking at that in your life and seeing, where am I doing that? Where am I doing things for people where I probably don’t need to?
Places where you are taken responsibility that is not yours to carry, and it may not even be a physical action.
It might be that you are constantly worrying about other people, constantly thinking about other people and their concerns.
Again, this was something I was doing and and internal boundary I needed to put in place.
I would be worrying so much about other people all of the time, and that was a behaviour that I was doing that was harming me.
If you think about that in your life, are you doing that? Are you constantly worrying about other people when it’s actually not your responsibility.
You don’t need to fix everything for them, and again, like I said before, it’s fine to support people through these hard times, but it is not your job to be fixing it all of the time.
You can’t want something for someone more than they want it for themselves, it’s about bringing that focus back to yourself. When you don’t have boundaries, it’s like open season and anyone can access you at any time of any day, like an all-time access pass.
Here I am open for business and that's not good for someone who has a sensitive soul...
As a sensitive soul you need some downtime, quiet time where you can really tend to your inner world. You need that time as a sensitive soul, because of your sensitivity and absorbing all of these energies all the time, you have to allow yourself to have that time, and that’s a boundary.
I have that boundary for myself and communicated that with my family, and they know that for an hour every day, usually around lunchtime, I have what I call a ‘healing hour’ and in that time I do things to support me. That changes depending on my needs, ranging from meditation, journaling, tapping or just a rest…
That’s a boundary that I have put in place with my family, everyone is very clear about what is happening at that time, each and every day.
Another part of boundaries is your standards, what kind of standards do you want to hold and be known for? What is it that you will and will not accept?
Your standards are clear signposts for people, teaching them exactly the type of behaviour and treatment you will allow...
As you progress on your healing journey, that will change, and I’ve seen that with the work that I do with my private clients, it is their standards that do change.
In the beginning they are open season for everyone, handing out their all-access passes to everyone…
They’re taking on everybody else’s stuff and sometimes it’s even people they don’t necessarily know.
We tend to have that happen as sensitive people, as you go on your healing journey, those standards are going to change.
The reason that they change is because as you are healing, as you are releasing and letting go of things from the past, your self-esteem, and your self-worth starts to increase, and as a result of that what you will and won’t accept changes…
There are certain things you are no longer going to accept...
There may be people in your life that have treated you a certain way your whole life, and you may excuse their behaviour with, well, it’s just the way they are.
No, that’s not okay anymore, you don’t have to continue accepting that behaviour. Another example of an external boundary…
You can put that boundary in place and say, I will no longer accept you speaking to me in that way, and it was something I had to do.
When I was younger I suffered with severe panic attacks and debilitating anxiety, I was 17 years old and had just come out of school…
I started my first full-time job and suffered this terrible panic attack, I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t understand what was happening as anxiety wasn’t really known about back then.
I remember just wanting to escape, knowing now my go to nervous system response is ‘flight’. All I could do with my limited knowledge and experience was to make up an excuse to get out of the situation…
I said that my grandmother had passed away…(she had not) and this was a traumatic event for me. But for my mother, she thought it was funny and it was just this big running joke in my family.
She would bring it up time and time again over the years, and every time she would do that, it would trigger a nervous system response.
It held a lot of shame and embarrassment for me, so every time she would bring that up, it triggered me.
As I healed my trauma and released the shame, I started to understand that her behaviour wasn’t okay and I need to insert a boundary.
I said to her, you do realize every time you say that to me, it triggers me. She’s said, no, of course not, I just thought it was funny and said, I won’t do it again, and she hasn’t.
A great example of how my own standards have changed over the years, through my own healing journey.
I have endured those kinds of behaviors and that’s not only the only example… I’ve had other experiences as well with bosses and other people picking on my mental health and at the time I just put up with it.
Whereas now I choose differently, My standards have changed because my self-worth and my self-esteem has risen, through my own healing, and it’s going to be the same for you.
Your job right now is going to sit down and think about:
- What are my standards?
- What am I willing to put up with?
- How am I willing to be treated?
- Is the way certain people are treating me okay, or is enough enough?
- Am I ready to draw the line, put the boundary and say, I will no longer tolerate you speaking to me in that way.
- What do you want to stand for?
Is there a legacy that you would like to leave this world with? Is that going to happen without putting some boundaries in place?
We’ve done a deep dive into what boundaries are and why you need them, I hope that’s helped you to start to understand the importance of them in your life.
I understand how hard it is because I resisted it for a really long time. Because I was would think I don’t want to hurt anyones feelings, I’m a recovering people pleaser, I would always do things to please people, obviously improving as I go on my own healing journey.
If all this talk of boundaries is feeling a little much and setting off your nervous system, I recommend starting small . Choose something little that might be just annoying you a tad and just put that boundary in place.
Or start with your internal boundaries, putting in boundaries for yourself before you then move to put boundaries in with other people. That’s always a really good place to start.
How you can work with me privately:
I offer 1-1 private Holistic Counselling that is provided online from the comfort of your home. Giving you the space you need to uncover what is causing your emotional turmoil.
As a highly sensitive woman and/or empath it is important for you to feel supported and learn more and understand more about your unique gift.
I am passionate about supporting you to move through empathy burnout and thrive as the deeply empathic woman you are.
Book your free virtual coffee chat.