5 Signs You Have Poor Boundaries

Stop! Don’t go! You have to hear this. You are not a doormat. Yes, you. UC Berkeley defines boundaries as “…the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships.” Sometimes, they may be hard to set or come with some not-so-ideal situations, but they are healthy and necessary. How good are you at setting boundaries? Let’s do a quick check! Here’s five signs you have poor boundaries.

Guilt

Quick! What’s the most powerful word that’s only two letters? No… F.U. isn’t a word. Did you guess it? The answer is “no”. The word “no” can not only stop something from happening or continuing, but it can also make you feel bad for saying it. Wait… did I read the script right?! Heh, yeah. Saying “no” actually makes some feel…guilty. In an article she wrote, Dr. Ilene Strauss Cohen, Ph.D., Psychology Today writer, explains that we experience this guilt because we feel prioritizing ourselves over someone is wrong. It’s not. Let’s use one of licensed professional counselor Tom Whitehead’s examples of a poor boundary from his scholarly article on the subject. You have a friend who loves to talk on the phone, and they call you all the time. You don’t enjoy talking as much and prefer texting, but you don’t want to be a bad friend by not answering the call. What do you do? Setting a boundary can help. You can tell your friend that you don’t mind them calling on the weekends, but you can’t talk during the week. This way, you don’t feel bad for not answering the calls, and your friend doesn’t think you’re ignoring them.

Inconsistency

Okay, hear us out. Have you ever been taaalking to someone and they give you mixed messages? You’re left confused and not sure if you should tell people you’re seeing someone or keep it on the DL. Same concept with boundaries. I have a friend, we’ll call them James. James does not like the names Jim nor Jimmy. If someone calls him one of those names, he’ll politely correct them. Imagine if James said he preferred James randomly but not EVERY time. It might get really confusing for friends and family to know what name you prefer if you aren’t consistent. This principle, along with how to create, set, and maintain a boundary are all explained in The Holistic Psychologist’s video “A Beginner’s Guide to Setting Boundaries”.

Indecision

We don’t care who you are. No one likes answering the question “What do you want to eat?” I want food, duh. However, did you know not being able to answer questions like this consistently might be a sign of having poor boundaries? Psychology writer Andrea Darcy and Dr. Sheri Jacobsen explain that someone without boundaries may have lost their sense of self. When you are faced with a decision, you might be more concerned with what will please others rather than what you would prefer. If no one else is there to give feedback, you might even freeze up and not be able to decide on anything. So, going back to “what do you want to eat?” Do you normally say “Oh, whatever you want!” or do you give a thoughtful answer? If you said the former, you may have poor boundaries.

“You Should Know”

Have you ever been really annoyed with someone for something they did, but when they ask what’s wrong, you say “If you don’t know why I’m upset, I can’t help you.” Everyone was raised differently. What you were taught is wrong, rude, or inconsiderate may not be the same for someone else. So, when you assume someone should know what they did is wrong, they may actually not know. This is why communication and boundaries are imperative. Psych Central lays this out in their article “Why Personal Boundaries are Important and How to Set Them” written by Leah Campbell and PsyD Bethany Juby. If there is something that bothers you, you are responsible for letting others know. Unless you state your limits in no uncertain terms and maintain it, others will not know to respect this boundary.

Skewed Priorities

Going out of your way for someone or doing someone a favor is awesome, but do you tend to do this more often than not? In her video and article “9 Signs of Poor Boundaries”, Dr. Ramani Durvasula explains that focusing on others’ wants, needs, and opinions “…to the point of exhaustion…” can be a sign of poor boundaries. When you put yourself first, you show that you know your worth and that you’re important. Having the opposite reaction can be a learned response to a trigger or a series of traumatic events. That intense and constant focus on others won’t allow you to focus on yourself making you unable to do… well anything on your own. So don’t stop doing that weekly good deed, but remember to put yourself first more often. Try it. Tell us what happened!

Setting a boundary can be really difficult, especially if it brings up negative emotions in others. Never forget that it is not wrong to set a boundary. So how did you do? Do you show any of these signs of poor boundaries? What helps you remember your worth? Share in the comments below! As always, keep an eye on Psi for more Psych2Go content. See ya next time!

The references used in and to compose this video are listed below:

Campbell, L. (2021, June 8). Personal boundaries: Types and how to set them. Psych Central. Retrieved September 25, 2022, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-are-personal-boundaries-how-do-i-get-some

Durvasula, D. R. (2022, August 5). 9 signs of poor boundaries (and what to do instead). MedCircle. Retrieved September 25, 2022, from https://medcircle.com/articles/signs-of-poor-boundaries/

Jacobson, S. (2021, August 30). Healthy Boundaries – 12 signs you lack them (and why you need them). Harley Therapy™ Blog. Retrieved September 25, 2022, from https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/healthy-boundaries.htm

Stauss Cohen, I. (2017, May 8). When guilt keeps you from setting boundaries. Psychology Today. Retrieved September 25, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-emotional-meter/201705/when-guilt-keeps-you-setting-boundaries

UHS Berkeley. (2010, June). What are personal boundaries? Berkely University Health Services. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from https://uhs.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/relationships_personal_boundaries.pdf

Whitehead, T. (n.d.). Boundaries and Psychotherapy Part I: Boundary Distortion and Its Consequences. Hakomi Institute. Retrieved September 25, 2022, from https://hakomiinstitute.com/YouTube. (2019). A Beginner’s Guide to Setting Boundaries. YouTube. Retrieved September 25, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUOvY6Lfm1A.

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