I’d like to introduce you to Ellen, a Psychologist from Victoria. She is a blogger, author and mum and loves to inspire others. Here she shares her take on boundaries and how they impact on us and our sense of SELF. I really hope you come and join us again later in the week, as Ellen will be back to help us learn how to establish healthy boundaries and increase our self-esteem. I’d love for you to go visit her website after you listen to what she has to say.
Recently a friend of mine, apologising for being a bit out of sorts, explained that she was upset about her 20-something daughter. She and her daughter had always been close but recently there had been trouble; arguments and disagreements, tension. According to my friend, the boyfriend was the problem. Well … not the boyfriend exactly. She had quite liked him and had certainly made him welcome as the two of them stayed with her during the weekends while working away from home during the week. It was not him exactly. Rather it was his influence on her daughter.
Apparently he had a lot to say about who she should be friends with and how much time she should spend with her friends and her family. Apparently little things that upset him became big things to her and if friends and family were part of his issue then she went in to bat for him, causing tension in her own relationships.
Her mother, my friend, was quite distressed. She sensed a wedge being driven between her and her daughter and she was quite sure that it was not of her daughter’s doing. She could see the influence that this man was having. She didn’t like it but she was at a loss as to what to do as any mention of it to her daughter was met solely with defensiveness.
At the time I expressed empathy for my friend, tried to console her and we brainstormed a few ideas and options. I related my own experience of being in my 20s with a much-loved partner whom, on reflection, I also went in to bat for perhaps more often than was warranted. I tried to solve his problems and appease his worries when really that was his job.
I was pondering this later when I realised that this was perhaps an issue of blurred personal boundaries. Personal boundaries, in psychology-speak, are the limits – physical, mental and emotional – that we establish around ourselves to differentiate ourselves from others. They allow us to separate who we are and what we think and feel from the thoughts and feelings of the people around us.
Personal boundaries are critical to healthy relationships but it can be very easy to let them blur, particularly when we’re young, inexperienced, or perhaps haven’t had clear boundaries and healthy relationships modelled to us in the past.
Signs of unhealthy boundaries include:
- Feeling guilty for saying no
- Doing things for others that we really don’t want to do
- Allowing unwanted physical contact
- Not speaking up when others treat us badly
- Giving endlessly to others in order to please them
- Taking endlessly from others because we can
- Rescuing others or allowing ourselves to be rescued instead of solving our own problems and encouraging others to solve theirs.
Personal boundaries are critical to our self-esteem. If we forget that we are each unique individuals with our own feelings, need, interests and values – or we were never clear about these things to begin with – it is so easy to take on board the needs, feelings and desires of our partners, children, friends and even the boss. It is so easy to forget your importance as a special, unique person and to start to feel and behave as though everyone else is more important. Do that for too long and your self-esteem – your confidence and belief in yourself – can easily disappear.
My friend’s daughter is still young and she has a strong mum. With time I think – I hope – she will come to realise that she needs to look after her needs and her relationships and let her boyfriend fight his own battles. If not, her mum and I agreed that a session or two with a good counsellor or psychologist will be the next course of action.
Stay tuned for my next post to learn how we establish healthy personal boundaries …
Ellen is a Psychologist, author, mum. Melbourne-born, she spent most of her 20’s and 30’s in Sydney and now lives in beautiful Ballarat, in the Victorian Goldfields. Ellen writes stuff to inspire and sometimes to challenge. She knows a lot of stuff about how people work at work, how people are different and unique and how people make the most out of life. Ellen writes at www.potential.com.au or if you’d like ask a question or share a story she’d love to hear from you! You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.