Listening to Our Boundaries

When we hear the word “boundaries” we often think of boundaries with other people. While it can be helpful to set boundaries with others, boundaries are really about how we care for ourselves.

Our Inner Yes and No

Sarri Gilman is a therapist that focuses on boundary work. She argues that we are all born with an inner Yes and No. Yes, this is okay, No, that is not okay. As we grow up, our culture, our environment, and our upbringing tells us what yes and no is acceptable and we often lose touch with this inner voice.

This inner Yes and No may be drowned out, but it is still there. Boundary work starts by getting in touch with your personal Yes and No.

7 Common Boundary Struggles

Gilman discusses 7 ways we typically struggle with boundaries, and stop listening to our inner Yes and No. People may struggle with one in particular, or a combination of several.  

1. Workaholic: this is someone who takes on more tasks at work than they would like. They tend to say yes to things they know they don’t have time for. They try to do it all which can leave them feeling overwhelmed with not much time for anything else.

2. Caretaker: this is someone who takes care of people that can actually care for themselves. They spend so much time caring for others in their life that they negate their own needs. Another consequence of this is that their loved ones don’t learn how to care for themselves.

3. Sacrificer: this is similar to a caretaker but a little different. A sacrificer focuses on the needs of other people often at the expense of themselves. They believe that other people’s needs are more important than their own.

4. Lover: people that struggle with this boundary have a great deal of love for others but often find that they never get that love in return. This is usually because they do not share much about themselves, often due to a fear of judgment.

5. Number: this is someone who goes out of their way to not feel what they are feeling. They may do this by bingeing TV, taking drugs, alcohol, overspending, overeating etc. They numb out their inner Yes and No.

6. Isolator: an isolator wants connection with others but has given up on this connection and alienates themselves. This leads them to feel very isolated and alone. Their boundary is too rigid.

7. Protector: this person protects others in their life by shielding the truth or is afraid to even hear the truth. This person often does not have a lot of support from others as no one knows what is truly going on in their life.

Where do I start?

Do any of these patterns resonate with you? Boundary work is an ever-evolving process. The first step involves spending some time getting in touch with what your inner Yes and No is saying. Boundary work also starts with making a self-care plan.

If you think you need help with boundary work I highly suggest Sarri Gilman’s book Transform Your Boundaries. This book walks you through how to begin to set boundaries in your own life, as well as how to set boundaries with difficult people.