I’m going to focus a lot on anxiety in the next few weeks, which is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. So many of us experience it (including me!), coming at us in so many different ways.
As you may have experienced, anxiety can have a big impact on our sense of freedom and calm, and can make us feel limited in our choices – and our lives.
It’s something truly worth troubleshooting.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to support yourself to not just feel better but to reduce your tendency for anxiety to happen in the first place.
One of these things is to look at how you’re showing up in your life.
Today, I want to invite you to look at how your boundaries (or lack thereof) can contribute to your anxiety.
What are boundaries?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to someone complain about how another person did something disagreeable and then I ask “have you established a boundary with them”, and I just get a blank stare in return.
I think that stare comes from a few places:
- Not realizing that by not having a boundary, they’re contributing to creating the very situation they’re complaining about. Being confronted with ownership can feel afronting.
- Not realizing that having a boundary is even an option.
- Not actually knowing what a boundary is…
Boundaries are when you have a clear understanding of what is right and good for you and you take care of those needs, especially in relationship with others.
Boundaries often are only communicated when they are being threatened. At this point, a consequence is included, for example:
“I need 8 hours of sleep so if you call me at 10pm to talk, I won’t pick up the phone.”
“I prefer not to drink alcohol so if one of your favorite activities is to go to the bar, then I don’t think we make a good match (and I don’t want to continue this relationship).”
How loose boundaries contribute to anxiety
Having loose boundaries means you’re putting other people above yourself – and you’re getting the short end of the stick.
Often we give into other’s desires because we fear their feelings or what they will think about us.
It seems like (in the short term) it’s easier to say “yes” rather than say no, so we people please.
We let other people’s wants run our decision making, disrespecting our own needs along the way.
This creates situations in which we’re overworked, not taking care of ourselves, building silent resentment, feeling disempowered and not creating safe spaces where we can feel respected and at ease.
Often, we have no idea we’re doing this.
We’re just trying to be nice.
To be a good partner or mother or worker.
Which is wonderful. But when we don’t respect our own needs and make self-sacrifice a habit, we end up building our relationships around this behavior so that the relationships can end up depending on your self-sacrifice – instead of respect and love.
Boundaries are a way to make respect and love a foundation of any relationship, at least for the part that YOU control.
When you come to a relationship clear on your needs and what you’re not comfortable with, and you communicate that when needed, then the relationship that does emerge will be based on that.
But I’m skipping ahead…
To sum it up, loose boundaries can generate anxiety when you:
- Do things they way other people want, ignoring your own wants, because it’s “easier”
- Constantly worry about people liking you, and “need” other people to like you in order to feel good about yourself, so you base your words or actions on what you think will please them
- Feel responsible for other people’s emotions, so you try to make them feel better by changing what you do or say (instead of staying true to what’s best for you)
- Don’t prioritize time and space to take care of yourself, so your nervous system stays charged up instead of settling into rest and digest mode more often
- Where in your life do you notice a loose boundary? How do you know that’s what’s happening?
- Imagine that this situation was magically resolved, how would that affect your anxiety levels?
- Do you think it’s worth learning to establish a boundary in this area?
Stay tuned for more coaching and action steps around anxiety and boundaries in the coming emails.
Wishing you courage and gentle self-respect.