“Like a city whose walls are broken is a person who lacks self-control”. (Proverbs 25:28). On a daily basis I am confronted with people who are unable to maintain healthy relationships, whether personal or professional, and the main reason for these relationship breakdowns is very simply the lack of personal and professional boundaries.
Boundaries are very important in any relationship, as they are our safety structures. Without them we are vulnerable and we may end up in some very uncomfortable situations.
Here are a few signs that you may have unhealthy boundaries:
- Telling all
Everybody does not need to know everything about us. People with unhealthy boundaries tend to have relationships with people in which they divulge way too much of themselves. E.g. it is not good if your work colleagues know about everything that is happening in your home life and private relationships.
- Trusting no one or trusting everyone
We all need to have some close confidants with whom we can share our personal ideas and whom we can trust to respect us and our views, but this type of trust takes time and most of us only have a handful of people with whom we feel comfortable sharing. Therefore, going to any one of these extremes is unhealthy.
- Talking on an intimate level at the first meeting
Remember that trust I was talking about? It is not a negative thing to talk about your intimate and personal ideas and feelings, however if you reach for the personal stuff before knowing the person’s full name, we may be looking at a boundary problem.
- Going against personal values or rights to please others
If I need to do something I feel uncomfortable with or engage in behavior that may hurt me in an effort to get someone else’s approval, I am entering into the danger zone. Healthy relationships do not require one of the parties to forego their own personal beliefs, values, or rights. If you are in such a relationship, it is time to seriously look at the relationship structure you have in place and evaluate if you should stay in that relationship.
- Letting others – define you, direct you or describe your reality
We are the authors of our own lives, we make choices and have to live with the consequences of those choices, but if we allow others to make these decisions for us we are not at the helm of our own lives. We may later resent not being able to make choices for ourselves.
- Believing others can anticipate your needs
It is not the responsibility of others to figure out what our needs are and to fulfil them. That responsibility falls firmly on our shoulders. Firstly, we need to identify what our needs are. Secondly, be able to communicate them to the people in our lives and thirdly, guiding others in how they may be able to satisfy these needs. The work colleague who is asking you to help them may not know how busy you are. It is your responsibility to communicate to that person that you are unable to assist them, as you yourself are struggling to keep up with demands.
- Allowing someone to take as much as they can from you
When we allow others to continue taking what they want from us, eventually we will run dry and have nothing left for ourselves.
Remember boundaries are there to protect us and should not be used as an instrument by another party.