How to Set Healthy Boundaries And Stop Being a Pushover
If you’ve stopped by my blog before you might know I’m a highly sensitive recovering people-pleaser, topped as a recovering perfectionist....
If you’ve stopped by my blog before you might know I’m a highly sensitive recovering people-pleaser, topped as a recovering perfectionist. Yes, I know! A cocktail of traits that is now one of my biggest strengths though, even if it wasn’t always like that. In fact as a child, and quite a bit into my adult life too, these traits were a real pain, and turned me into a gigantic pushover.
Defining personal boundaries
Before taking you down pushover lane, I want to frame a few things. First, let’s look at what being a pushover really means. According to the online Cambridge dictionary it’s someone who is easily persuaded, influenced or defeated. Now let’s define boundaries. According to the same source a boundary is a real or imagined line that marks the edge or limit of something. A personal boundary then becomes a guidelines, rule or limit that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits. That’s according to Wikipedia.
What life looks like without personal boundaries
My personal history is full of pushover stories. In fact, before I realized how problematic my personal boundaries where – or that one could actually define them, it was the only way I knew how to be. It’s not that I didn’t have a meaning about things, or that I didn’t have desires, but something always made me go for someone else’s wish, I was always persuaded that someone else’s idea was better than mine, and practically everyone I encountered had influence on me.
When I talk about this pushover past with people today, most of them are surprised. If you’ve ever spent time with me, worked on a project with me, or been at one of my workshops, you might be surprised too.
I’m not really the pushover type… In fact, I’m sort of strong-willed, I definitely know what I want, and I pretty good at taking action towards it.
Why was I so easily influenced? What did I do to change? Those are the questions I want to answer with this post. Because working my way to healthy boundaries changed my life entirely.
Before… I would want to go see a romantic comedy with a friend, and end up in the cinema watching the latest Van Diesel shoot-em-up.
Before… I would plan a relaxing spa weekend with the boyfriend, and end up at adventure camp for 3 days.
Before… I would long for a delicious vegetarian meal, and end up at Buffalo Grill.
… yes, I know… that’s what life looks like without personal boundaries.
From the examples above you can clearly see that the problem wasn’t in the wished or desires. Deep down I’ve always known what I wanted – as I believe most pushovers do, and also sort of articulated it. The problem was with the boundaries. They were too weak to withstand other people. As soon as someone had a different idea they would bend or break.
I mentioned a few of the typical scenarios that were my life above, but there were others – far less pleasant ones. A lack of personal boundaries can get you into the most annoying, and frustrating situations (if not worse!). Believe me, I’ve been there:
- Doing things I didn’t really want to do just because someone asked me to.
- Spending time with someone I didn’t want to be with just because that person showed up at my doorstep.
- Pretending I agreed with others just because they had a different point of view.
- Doing someone else’s homework just because they’d asked me to.
- Letting someone kiss me that I didn’t really like just because that person wanted to.
- Not being able to leave the office late at night, when I was exhausted, just because someone asked me to stay.
- Not eating healthy just because everyone was else decided to order pizza.
- Not doing what I really wanted to do just because someone wanted to do something else instead.
How to set healthy boundaries for yourself
I’d love to tell you that all at once, one beautiful morning I woke up with healthy personal boundaries. But it didn’t go that way. In my case – and in the case of many of my clients – the first step is awareness (isn’t it always?). In order to be able to set healthy boundaries for yourself, you have to start by recognizing there’s a problem. And the way you do that is by asking yourself the right questions:
- Did I really want to do this?
- Am I really happy with my friends asking me to do that?
- What would I have done if I was the one in charge? (this is a big one, believe me!)
Then, when there’s awareness, you have to figure out what you really want (so this would be step two). A great question to ask yourself to get clear on your own desires is this one:
- If I could have it all my way, what would I really want?
When you’re aware, and you know what you want, it’s time to decide where you’ll draw the line. This is the step where you set your boundaries. Imagine you’re sick and tired of always ending up watching the wrong movie in the theatre. You could set a boundary that states that whatever happens you’ll stick to your choice of movie. Because why else would you go there in the first place?
Do this with every area of your life, based on your answers to the questions above, and you’ll have a set of very healthy, and beneficial boundaries to call your own. Before ending, there’s one last – pretty important – thing I want to address.
How to enforce your boundaries
It’s all good, and well to set boundaries, know what you want, and be aware of what you need. But there’s a whole world out there of people, of which the closest ones to you won’t be used to you being so clear, and firm about what you want.
At first specifically, your boundaries will be fragile, and the opinions of others (how well intended they may be) will make you doubt yourself, and falter. To help me enforce my boundaries, I’ve come to rely on three things:
- My values: I’ve become really clear about what I stand for, and believe in. As a result, I’m able to safeguard my boundaries much better than if I wasn’t quite sure what I believed in, or stood for. When someone tries to convince me to go for Buffalo Grill now instead of delicious vegetarian food. Well… no!
- Self-love: Nothing helps you safeguard your boundaries better than self-love. The biggest issue with being a pushover is often that you’ve become accustomed to coming last. What you want, need, or desire isn’t as important as what someone else is asking for. By focusing on self-love you’re essentially focusing on yourself, and making you your number one priority.
- Trusting myself: I saved the best for last. If you want healthy boundaries I believe you need to learn to trust yourself. At least that’s how it went for me. Whatever choice you’re faced with, there’s always the voice within, and the voice outside. Pushovers trust the voice outside, people with healthy boundaries trust the voice within. You know why? Because it always knows best.
Now tell me, how do you maintain healthy personal boundaries? Let me know in the comments below, I’d really love to know.