One of the most common areas I talk to clients about is the subject of boundaries. They seem to crop up everywhere and with anyone…no matter what you do, and who you are. Some people find it much easier to have them in place- others find it almost impossible.
For those who find it impossible, my work with them delves into what drives them to frequently say yes more then they say no.
These are the most common reasons why:
1. The need for others to like you / be impressed and find you helpful
2. The need to serve.
3. The need to be busy.
4. Feeling bad about no-one else volunteering to do the task.
5. Trying to keep everyone happy – wanting to avoid confrontation or letting others down.
The problem is, is that by always making yourself available to others with few restrictions or boundaries in place, you will find that others will then keep on asking you to do x,y and z…so things just continue or get worse with you feeling more and more overwhelmed.
The more this overwhelm carries on, the more the resentment of this repeated situation you find yourself in will build as well as your resentment of the person(s) who put you in this position.
This resentment will then turn to frustration with yourself as you realise it wasn’t them who put you in this situation- it was yourself.
The usual end result of this repeated pattern is that the resentment and anger builds to a level where you will either explode in anger and behave much more irrationally then you usually would. Or you will shut down and ignore those around you and be internally exploding. Either way- the end result doesn’t feel good. It feels more extreme than you would want. And you end up feeling rubbish about yourself (and them!)
When I am working with clients I am always thinking of analogies to try to help them see a behaviour or a situation in another way – and this one always seems to stick!
Not setting boundaries with others is a bit like a sheep farmer not putting up any hedges or fences on his farm in order to contain his herd of sheep. He loves being able to see the sheep wandering, grazing and ambling around in the sunshine with no containment; being able to go where they please. All is good until he can see in the distance that they are wandering towards a busy motorway that runs past the farm. He can see that because there are no fences or hedges, the sheep are going to wander onto the road and will cause the most horrendous accident. But he is too far away from them to get to them in time to get them out of danger. He therefore has to take drastic action and reach for his rifle and shoot the sheep before they get onto the road. He is devastated because had he put real, physical boundaries in place, he would not have had to do this. He hates himself for this much more extreme way of having to deal with the situation; much more extreme then having to initially ‘disappoint’ the sheep by putting a fence around their field.
The moral of the tail is that with no boundaries in place with your relationships – personal or professional- you will find that the outcome of situations will entail you feeling a lot worse / more frustrated / more angry with yourself as you have ended up behaving in a way that you did not like. It might feel hard to say no or to put a limit on what you can commit to, but this way means that you are more likely to be able to perform or be the person you want to be with no outbursts, resentment or internal angst.