If you suffer from chronic people-pleasing, or find that other people are constantly using you, there are things you need to start doing to set up healthy boundaries for yourself.
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When it comes to boundaries, prevention is better than cure, but it can be hard to notice where your boundaries are if you weren’t taught this properly by your parents. Some people don’t set limits with others until they are literally at their wits end, and then they proceed to explode in someone’s face. This ruins relationships which would otherwise have been manageable if some precautions were taken from the outset.
Just to be clear: if you have to get angry to enforce your boundaries, you’ve already let it get out of hand. If you know that particular people won’t listen to you the first time, then you need to separate from those people and either keep them at arms-length or cut contact entirely.
Sure, you might have to move out if you live with someone like that or lose 90% of your relationships, but if you don’t have the guts to save yourself from other people then you may as well embrace your fate as a used and abused doormat now, cos those people are not changing.
They don’t have to. This works for them.
Your Boundaries are the natural walls you build around what is ok for you and what is not ok for you. When someone brushes up against them, you may notice an automatic bristling. Noticing and acting upon those brushes is more important than we’re usually taught.
That’s why its super important to know your own limits, likes and dislikes. It sounds obvious, but this is something empaths struggle with a lot. They’re used to knowing how other people feel better than they know their own feelings.
For normal people, they take their time establishing friendships and relationships, but for someone suffering codependency or who is a natural empath, this is a process they’re used to skipping over. They tend to fall prey to love-bombing too easily (yes, even with friendships this applies) and that’s how narcissists push themselves into your life.
Suffering from narcissistic abuse can seem like everything is out of your control, but every relationship is a two way street and you’re more in control than you think.
If you understand that not everyone you make friends with is going to be capable of meaningful and reciprocal relationships, you can hold friendships lightly at first in order to see where the other person is at. If that person seems like a good sort and they’re keen to create a deeper friendships, this is something you can progress towards over time.
For those relationships which are already functioning inside of toxicity, setting boundaries will be hard to do without completely destroying the relationship itself. That is a sacrifice you have to be prepared to make because otherwise you have no bargaining power with someone who is prepared to play hard.
These sorts of people already don’t value you properly, so using threats or ultimatums is useless. The only power you have is to walk away and it’s vital for your self-esteem that you actually do it (safely, if the person is potentially dangerous).
Part of establishing boundaries is to get to know yourself. If you’re constantly looking towards the other person, their needs and their volatile mood swings, you will never have the mental space to do this, so your first step is to be alone as much as possible.
You need to start creating a relationship with yourself. That means turning all that attention inwards; discovering how YOU feel in different situations, noticing how YOU react to various people, knowing what YOU like.
Mindfulness is a key which can unlock a real relationship with yourself.
Part of that mindfulness is spending quality time with yourself. Take yourself out to a nice cafe and enjoy a cup of coffee with a good book. Go on a hike through a national park. Have a luxurious bath and listen to some soothing music.
Treat yo self.
The next step is to start saying no to things more often.
You don’t need to get angry with someone for asking. There’s not always a malicious intent if someone asks you to do a thing or borrow stuff or whatever, but that doesn’t mean you need to oblige. Determine in each situation if this is something which costs you too much time, energy, money or emotions before you say yes to anything.
How do you know which people you need to get distance from? They’re the ones which get angry when you start saying “no”.
If someone can’t shrug off a basic “no” and accept it as your literal right to do so, that’s a user and you don’t want to waste too much of your time on them. They can be as charming as they like, but if the cost of their friendship is carte blanche access to everything you have and everything you are, that is a hefty price tag.
Reciprocation is a choice, not a right.
The same applies in the other direction; just because you do something nice for someone, doesn’t mean they owe you. Being generous is a choice, not a contract. This is something codependents do just as much as narcissists; they think that if they make themselves subservient to another person, that person will give them the love they’re craving, but you can’t make a demand like that.
Love is freely given, not bargained.
If you’re trying to barter services in exchange for love, you’re likely to be bitterly disappointed in other people because the people you’ll attract are the sort who breadcrumb their love in exchange for massive amounts of servitude.
Settling for the crumbs from someone else’s table sends the message that you have no real value and then people proceed to undervalue your boundaries.
So break the cycle of giving to others and start establishing a new cycle where you give to yourself first and then decide if another is worthy of your precious time.
When you finally find someone worthy of that time, you will have a lot more to give because you haven’t become depleted from wasting it on one-sided relationships.