Boundary Boss: The Essential Guide to Talk True, Be Seen, and (Finally) Live Freeby Terri Cole
A practical guide on empowering yourself by setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. In Boundary Boss, you’ll learn why people develop bad boundaries and how to overcome the roadblocks that prevent you from living life on your terms. If you’re tired of constantly sacrificing yourself and being taken advantage of, this book will help you establish a new blueprint for your life.
Beginning Your Journey
“Ineffective communication skills lead to weak or disordered boundary skills.”
Millions of women struggle with setting and enforcing healthy boundaries. This usually stems from their fear of disappointing others. However, going out of your way to please others only leads to imbalanced relationships and poor self-care. To break out of this mindset, you need to understand that your boundaries are based on your earliest childhood experiences.
If you grew up in a home where expressing your true feelings was taboo, you’re likely to bury your emotions to avoid conflict. When somebody violates your boundaries, you’ll act as if everything is fine even though you’re feeling resentful. Furthermore, a lack of healthy external boundaries is a sign of a poor relationship with yourself.
To maintain healthy boundaries, acknowledge that your primary responsibility is to your well-being. Take care of yourself first instead of always rushing to carry other people’s burdens. You can only become a boundary master by developing greater self-awareness and honesty about your current predicament.
Actions to take
“Personal boundaries are invisible and therefore need to be established with words (often repeated) and actions.”
If you grew up in a household where people violated each other’s boundaries, you’re likely to perceive boundary transgressions as normal. What you fail to realize is that these seemingly small boundary violations are seeds that will turn into gigantic boundary struggles in the future. You end up as an adult who cannot identify or communicate your desires and preferences in a relationship.
People will not respect your boundaries unless you’re willing to clarify and enforce them whenever they are violated. You have to teach people how to treat you instead of assuming they know where the boundary lines are drawn. Initially, some people will ignore your boundaries. Therefore, you need to show these offenders the consequences of their bad behavior.
You can establish boundaries for different areas of your life, such as physical, mental, material, sexual, and emotional boundaries. When creating boundaries, remember to avoid creating rigid ones, for example, isolating yourself or not asking for help just to avoid rejection. Take a long, hard look at your life and clarify the permissible behaviors versus boundary violations.
Actions to take
The Codependency Connection
“At its root, codependency is borne of a primal need to survive, to ensure safety and love.”
A codependent individual is someone who feels compelled to do things for others even when those people should be solving their problems. It can be a woman who makes excuses for her abusive husband or someone who keeps giving money to their alcoholic friend. The problem with this is that by focusing too much on helping others, you become neglectful of your own needs and desires.
Codependency results from a dysfunctional childhood that forced you to become overly responsible at a young age. Maybe you suffered abuse and neglect or were forced to become a caregiver to a substance-addicted parent. Whatever the situation, you had to anticipate and prioritize other people’s needs. This creates an unconscious compulsion to rescue others just to avoid rejection.
When you become co-dependent, you strip your ability to enforce healthy boundaries. It also keeps you engaged in emotional labor, which is unpaid and invisible work that you do to keep those around you happy and comfortable. Therefore, it’s important to assess the relationships that are sucking you dry and consciously step back from wanting to save others.
Actions to take
Your Corrupted Boundary Blueprint
“Emotional resistance…is an unconscious way that human beings avoid the discomfort that conscious change and personal transformation can provoke.”
If you feel you lack healthy boundaries, you probably have a corrupted blueprint. A boundary blueprint comprises inherited beliefs that define how you set and maintain your boundaries. Unfortunately, it’s based on all the dysfunctional information you absorbed from your environment as you were growing up.
However, you cannot blame your parents for your flawed blueprint because they unconsciously received theirs from their parents. If you want to change your boundary blueprint, you must first take ownership of it. You have to dig deep and uncover the ancient hereditary blueprints that have been controlling your life.
Furthermore, you need to interrogate why you’ve been so comfortable with having poor boundaries. You may discover that there’s a secondary gain to you not having healthy boundaries. This is a self-reflective process that often involves some emotional resistance. However, you have to keep digging until you uncover the roots of your poor boundaries.
Actions to take
Your Limiting Beliefs
“Limiting beliefs are seeded in childhood and can negatively impact our boundary behaviors and self-identity.”
It’s difficult to identify your limiting beliefs and their impact on your life because you’ve had them for most of your life. When they form part of your identity, they prevent you from fully knowing yourself, making it difficult to be genuinely known by others. This inhibits your ability to form genuine and deep intimate relationships.
Apart from inherited limiting beliefs, you may also carry self-made beliefs based on your interpretation of difficult childhood situations. These beliefs may have been useful as a child, but they are now unconsciously sabotaging your relationships and quality of life. They may have sounded true back then, but that doesn’t mean they are true today.
When left unchecked, these subjective “truths” can be very destructive in your life. Once you’ve understood where your limiting beliefs come from, you can begin healing your childhood wounds. Only then can you begin the work of deconstructing your limiting beliefs.
Actions to take
Create New Behaviors
“Body wisdom…can become your secret weapon in shifting from dysfunctional boundary patterns to healthier ones.”
Awareness alone is insufficient when understanding and changing your boundary patterns. You must take action repeatedly to alter behavioral patterns embedded in your unconscious for decades. There must also be a willingness to change and a consistent effort to learn new ways of responding to situations.
One way of creating new behaviors is by tapping into the wisdom of your body. If you’re in a situation causing you to repeat a dysfunctional boundary pattern, your body will alert you. The tension or discomfort you’re feeling is your body’s way of telling you to do something different or move in a new direction.
It’s also important to differentiate between your preferences, desires, and deal-breakers. Preferences are boundaries that you can compromise on. Desires are strong wishes that you want others to respect. Deal-breakers are unique, non-negotiable boundaries that cannot be violated. Understanding the differences will help you create clearer boundaries for those around you.
Actions to take
Create Proactive Boundaries
“Self-abandonment is one of the main symptoms of damaged internal boundaries.”
Most of our relationships operate on unspoken boundary agreements. We silently agree to avoid conflict and keep each other comfortable, even if it means suppressing our truth. These agreements are often based on false assumptions about the other person. When left unchecked, these unspoken agreements can be destructive.
If you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, you’re likely to fear changing your boundary agreements. Though change is precisely what you need, you’re afraid of the conflict it may trigger. However, you have to be proactive in articulating your boundaries even if the other person doesn’t like it. You can’t keep abandoning yourself just to make others happy.
It's important to know who you are and the internal boundaries that define your relationship with yourself. Once you’ve done so, you can then create healthy external boundaries with others. Changing your boundary agreements takes time, but the important thing is to commit to yourself once and for all.
Actions to take
Mourning Your Past
“Honoring your truth and your real past experiences is a radical act of self-love—a mandatory exercise for legitimate Boundary Boss status.”
On your journey to becoming a boundary boss, you will face bumps in the form of emotional turmoil. Remember that you’ve been allowing others to violate your boundaries for a long time because of your childhood experiences. So when you finally get the courage to speak up for yourself, you’re naturally going to experience powerful emotions as you release the built-up sadness and resentment.
Some of this resentment is against you because you’ve been abandoning yourself to please others. Therefore, allow yourself to grieve all the ways you’ve tolerated bad behavior and selfish relationships. Honor these emotions as they arise and let them flow out of you without judgment. See this as an opportunity to re-parent yourself and show compassion for your inner child.