In a chaotic world where many questionable things are socially accepted, it is hard to know whether or not you have good boundaries to protect yourself and others from harm. Depending on how you were raised, or where you are from boundaries or lack thereof can be different.
Family dynamics play a major role in this as the parents are the ones who first model, tell, and demonstrate what boundaries a child can have during the early stages of their life and sometimes onto adulthood.
Often if the family dynamic is toxic and abusive, then the child might end up with poor boundaries. If the family dynamic is healthy, then the child might end up with healthier boundaries. But, the family dynamic isn’t the only thing that may destroy or help build boundaries in an individual.
Things like trauma, major life events, and relationships whether romantic or not can also play a role in the dismantling or building of boundaries within a person. So, how do you know if you have poor boundaries or not?
While there may be many things that can tell you whether or not you have healthy boundaries put in place, we have compiled a list of 8 the most common signs that you may have poor boundaries.
Before continuing, please remember that this article is for information and educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace any professional and medical advice, treatment, or diagnosis.
Here are 8 signs you may have poor boundaries.
1- Can’t make decisions
Do you find that either you or some people just can’t make decisions for themselves? This could be a sign of having bad boundaries, regardless of whether you or this other person identifies as a Libra.
Sometimes, not being able to make decisions could be a result of other people’s over-involvement in your life or other people not giving you the opportunities to learn and grow for yourself.
In an article on the Harley Therapy Counselling blog, the author describes how over-involving yourself with other people or people-pleasing can lead to you eventually not being able to make your own decisions.
“You can end up spending so much of your life doing what others want, that you lose your sense of self”, the article said, “This means you often don’t know what you do or don’t want. Faced with a decision, you blank”.
Having overbearing parents or relatives can have a similar effect to the situation described above, as the overbearing parents tend to make all the decisions for their children taking from them the opportunities to think for themselves.
Of course, it doesn’t necessarily need to be overbearing parents who do this. Well-meaning parents or family can fall into doing this. For example, not letting you into the kitchen or taking over when you are trying to cook because you’re “not doing it the right way” or “I just want to help you”. Even though it may seem harmless, doing this takes away the experience that the person needs in order to learn how to cook. This type of dynamic can be translated to other parts of life as well.
Abuse can lead to a person not being able to make decisions as well. Fearing that whatever they choose could lead to the other person getting angry or abusing them again, victims of abuse may have a hard time making choices.
People-pleasing is a complex subject. Your personality can be that of a people pleaser or the people-pleasing can be the product of outside forces molding you into a people pleaser. Regardless, being a people pleaser means that you are often focused on other people, feel responsible for other people’s feelings, and also feel responsible for “fixing” others.
People pleasers want everyone to be happy and will do anything for that to happen. The problem is that anything turns out to be sacrificing themselves, their time, their resources, and even their sense of self in order to make others happy. But, why would anyone want to make another person happy in this way?
According to an article in the Science of People, “People pleasers often act out of insecurity and a lack of self-esteem”.
“For some, saying yes is a habit”, the article continues, “For others, it’s almost an addiction. The constant validation gained from being a people pleaser makes them feel like they are needed and useful”.
No matter the reasons, people-pleasing will lead to loss of sense of self, enmeshment, anger, resentment, damaged relationships, and sometimes even mental health issues. If you are a people-pleaser you have bad boundaries and may need to contact a mental health professional for help to stop this behavior and live a better life.
3- Loss of sense of self
Our identity or sense of self is what helps us connect with others and identify as who we think we are. A sense of self is normally developed over a long period of time but can be lost in a moment due to trauma or a major life event. It leaves the person asking themselves who they are, what they want anymore, and what their purpose is in life.
Losing yourself and not knowing what you want anymore means that you do not know what you stand for anymore as well. It is possible that you may be questioning your beliefs and values. This leaves you open and vulnerable to adopting other people’s needs, wants beliefs, and values as your own, instead of forming them yourself.
This reflects a bad boundary as you leave yourself open to all kinds of treatment from the people you are closest to and possibly even strangers. Not having a sense of self could mean that anyone can put anything in your mind and make you believe it due to you not knowing who you truly are or what you truly stand for.
Losing yourself also means losing your self-worth and self-esteem. This leaves an empty gap inside that is often filled by seeking the approval of others or living for other people. Often doing everything another person does or orders you to do. In which case to adopt parts of that other person’s identity as yours.
“When we lose our identity and sense of self, we are likely to seek our sense of self-worth from others. It suddenly becomes very important how others view us…,” stated Ann-Marie Alger in an article written for Counseling Directory, “As a result, we seek reassurance and praise from others to feel OK about ourselves – but in reality, our emotional well-being depends on how we feel about ourselves”.
In looking for a sense of self-worth from others you may incur other types of bad boundaries such as violating other people’s boundaries. Having a sense of self is essential to living a happy and meaningful life, if you feel like you do not know who you are anymore please get in touch with a mental health professional. They can help you regain your sense of self.
Have you ever overshared before? Most likely you were nervous and it just all spewed out without you being able to stop yourself. Most people don’t tend to overshare their lives, if they do, they are most likely under a lot of stress and learn not to do it again.
For other people though, oversharing is a constant thing they do but not because they want to seem above everyone or because they necessarily like to talk about themselves. According to Tamara Hill, a nationally certified counselor, people who have unhealthy boundaries overshare due to fear.
“Individuals who have poor emotional intelligence and attachment problems often share way too much information, way too soon or fail to share enough information for others to understand them”, Hill said in her PsychCentral article, “The foundation of this could be fear. I have worked with adolescents who are very open and tend to share almost every detail of their life for fear of being characterized as “shy” or “distant” “.
Besides not wanting to be seen as shy or distant, oversharing can have other reasons like being a cry for help if the person is experiencing some type of abuse at home. It could also be due to cultural differences, as well as other reasons.
Regardless, oversharing, and doing it often, can be a sign of having bad boundaries. You don’t always have to tell everything to everyone. People can get overwhelmed with the information you give them, people can use that information against you, and you can be put in danger if the wrong information gets spread around.
If you tend to overshare or know someone who does this, try to talk to that person and get help. This help can include a mental health professional or looking up practical exercises on how to stop oversharing.
5- Resentment, Frustration, or Anger
If these emotions come from feeling that we are being stepped on, that we are not being heard, or feeling as if no one does the same for you as you do for them, then you may have bad boundaries. No one feels stepped on or taken advantage of unless that’s exactly what’s happening to some degree.
Dr. Ramani Suryakantham Durvasula, a clinical psychologist, explains in a video, in partnership with MedCircle, that there may be two main reasons why feeling resentment or frustration towards others may be a sign of poor boundaries.
“Another sign of poor boundaries may be that a person is getting resentful and annoyed that they are overextending themselves but other people aren’t”, said Dr. Ramani, “And that may very well be because those other people have either better boundaries or may be taking advantage of the fact that the other person doesn’t have good boundaries to benefit from that”.
If you feel taken advantage of if you feel like you are doing more than others do for you if you feel like you are in an unfair situation where you carry the most weight, that could be a sign of poor boundaries according to Dr. Ramani.
“Especially when that’s not being reciprocated and it often isn’t”, said Dr. Ramani in the video.
6- Passive aggressiveness
Passive aggressiveness relates to resentment and feelings of being overextended. It is a way for people with poor boundaries to let out their frustration of taking on or being pushed into having more responsibilities because they find it difficult to communicate directly and ask for help.
“The passive part of passive-aggressive is that the person is not dealing with a problem that’s on the table and is not communicating about it directly”, Dr. Ramani said, “And that makes sense because communicating directly is a struggle for people with poor boundaries”.
Much of this resistance to communicating directly or asking for help is that they feel guilt, shame, or like they might be letting other people down if they do these things.
“What’s interesting”, Dr. Ramani says, “Is that I may not even be that you’re not setting good boundaries with the person in front of you. It could be, for example, that you may not be setting good boundaries at work and taking it out on the people nearest to you like your friends and family. Because they feel that they cannot safely communicate about that at work or in that other situation”.
7- Doing things you don’t want
Sometimes, due to the fear of rejection or abandonment people decide to start doing things that they are not comfortable with in order to keep that person with them or to not get scrutinized, judged, or left by a certain person or group of people.
“It’s a very destabilizing fear (rejection or abandonment) because what happens is, the person will have poor boundaries but in a way, those poor boundaries give them a sense of control”, said Dr. Ramani in her video, “They can keep overextending themselves and getting ahead of or avoiding this fear even if it’s an unlikely fear”.
They will keep doing what is asked of them even if they do not agree, aren’t comfortable with, or don’t like what is asked of them. Some examples of this are engaging in sexual activities when you don’t want to in hopes that the significant other doesn’t leave them or doing uncomfortable activities in public or to others in order to be accepted by a group of people whether at work, or school, or a family setting.
8- Other types of poor boundaries
Although we have talked about poor boundaries in the sense of an individual having poor boundaries with themselves and letting others take advantage of them or interfere in their lives unscrupulously, not all bad boundaries are like this.
Some signs of poor boundaries can refer to people overstepping consciously onto other people’s lives instead of just letting others walk all over them. Some of these poor boundaries can be violating other people’s boundaries, touching people without permission, manipulating, trying to break other people, etc.
Having poor boundaries whether it is towards yourself or other people will interfere with your life negatively. So, if you realize you’re having trouble with boundaries we suggest you take a step back to reevaluate yourself and learn how to create healthy boundaries. If you need help, then contacting a mental health professional will be your best bet to getting your life back on track.
Do you agree with this list? What else would you add? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel for more about psychology.
Alger, A. (2014, 12 June). ‘I don’t know who I am anymore’: Losing my identity. Counselling Directory. https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/memberarticles/i-dont-know-who-i-am-anymore-losing-my-identity
Hill, M. T. S. (2015, 15 July). Attachment Re-visited: 7 Red Flag Signs of Poor Boundaries. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/blog/caregivers/2015/07/emotional-attachment-10-red-flag-signs-of-poor-boundaries#5
Luna, A. (2021, 3 August). 18 Signs You Lack Personal Boundaries (and Feel Constantly Used). LonerWolf. https://lonerwolf.com/personal-boundaries/
MedCircle x Dr Ramani [MedCircle ]. (2022, 31 March). 9 Signs of Poor Boundaries | MedCircle x Dr Ramani [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7-TtxJwbPk&t=59s
Therapy, H. (2021, 30 August). Healthy Boundaries – 12 Signs You Lack Them (and Why You Need Them). Harley TherapyTM Blog. https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/healthy-boundaries.htm
Van Edwards, V. (2022, 7 March). 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You. Science of People. https://www.scienceofpeople.com/people-pleaser/#:%7E:text=please%20is%20you.-,What%20is%20a%20people%20pleaser%3F%20(Definition),a%20lack%20of%20self%2Desteem.
Zrenchik, K., PhD. (2021, 25 September). – What Does it Mean to Have Healthy Boundaries? ALL IN Therapy Clinic. https://allintherapyclinic.com/what-does-it-mean-to-have-healthy-boundaries/#:%7E:text=Here%20are%20a%20few%20examples,someone%20does%20something%20without%20permission