Living with BPD: Setting Personal Boundaries Part 1
Setting personal boundaries can be very difficult and frightening. Our fear of abandonment makes us not want to offend anyone. Our inner voice calls us names and makes us question our motives. We can feel like setting boundaries is a symptom of the pushing and pulling that comes with experiencing BPD. Sometime it feels like it is easier to say yes than deal with the internal consequences of saying no.
Or is it?
Although we are often stereotyped by our outbursts, what people don’t see is what is happening inside. We want to please others. We want to feel connected, loved. In an effort to be everything others want us to be we live a life without boundaries.
Weak boundaries leave us likely to be taken advantage of, and/or even damaged by others.
Setting clear personal boundaries is necessary to have mutually respectful, supportive and caring relationships. They set the limits for what you deem acceptable behavior from those around you.
“You change for two reasons: Either you learn enough that you want to, or you’ve been hurt enough that you have to.” ~Unknown
The consequences of not having strong personal boundaries may be as small as having a constant worry about how you are perceived, i.e. everyone is mad at you to, or as large as splitting and co-dependence.
Accepting personal boundaries makes life more relatable and less anxiety provoking. You are living for your needs as well as others.
How to Begin:
The first step towards setting boundaries is sitting down and having a heart to heart with yourself.
- Begin with grounding yourself. Allow yourself to be fully conscious and present in the moment.
- In a journal, list actions you do out of obligation or out of fear of the consequences.
- Of these actions, identify which make you feel angry, emotionally exhausted, manipulated, or inferior to others.
- Identify the tipping point. We all have obligations we must respect, but where do our actions and the actions of others move from interdependence to over dependent.
- Identify where your responsibility stops and others begins.
- Set boundary lines that do not push you over the tipping point and how you can honor these lines within yourself. If you cannot honor your own boundaries no one else will either.
- Write down ways in which each important person in your life doesn’t not fit into these boundaries. Include yourself. Remember, often we are our worst enemy!
- Make a list of things you would like yourself and others to stop doing and saying.
- Write down ways you can foster these changes in your life.
- Pick one or two and implement them into your daily routine.
It can be tempting to want to change others first, but we need to first model the change we want to see.
Rationalization, fear, obligation, doubt, and guilt are all barriers to this exercise. When these arise within you accept them as being valid, but question their truth.
When beginning to set personal boundaries remember to start small. Set boundary lines that feel manageable, ones that are less likely to overwhelm you. Don’t give up if you can’t adhere to them right away. Remember, setting boundaries is a skill that is learned through practice!
Starting small can lead to big changes. Don’t be afraid to sit yourself down from time to time for a heart to heart to re-evaluate your boundary lines. As lines are established, and you find you can maintain them, add more, but each time you make changes start small.
Conflict is inevitable. Unfortunately, we can’t control how other people react to our own assertiveness, and sometimes being assertive will lead to hurt feelings even if that was never the intention.
Individuals with BPD often pick people who are not afraid to use our energy for their benefit. These people are toxic in our lives. They play on our insecurities and often know just the right buttons to push to create havoc in our minds. These people will also be the most resistant to our request to respect our personal boundaries.
Rather than argue back or give in, actively listen. Rephrase what they are saying then add how their request crosses your boundary lines.
If they are unwilling or unable to respect your boundaries it may be time to take a step back and remove them from your life.
Sometimes conflict is caused by misunderstanding. Language is an art and at times what we mean to say is not how it is heard.
Reducing Conflict due to misunderstanding:
- Select an appropriate time to have the conversation.
- Maintain direct eye contact.
- Use open and relaxed posture.
- Be sure your facial expression and tone of voice agree with the message.
- Excuse yourself from the conversation if you feel these are not being met.
Setting and maintaining personal boundaries requires practice and understanding. The idea that you are equal to others, and have the right to say no, is key to understanding where to start. Start small and with time big changes will happen.