Lack Boundaries?

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Are you the person who always says yes to everyone? But then secretly feels annoyed that people take advantage of you? Or frustrated that you never have time to do the things you want to do?

Sounds like you need some boundaries.

What are personal boundaries?

Imagine you are out walking in nature. Suddenly you are faced with a fence. It’s been placed there by the owner of the property to let everyone know that this is his limit of where the public can walk on his land.

And just like that property owner has made his limit clear to protect what matters to him? In order to protect what matters to us -- our time, energy, ethics, and values, for example -- we need to set personal limits with other people.

Boundaries mean you let people know how they can and can't treat you, what you will and won't do for them, and how they can and can't behave around you.

Why do boundaries matter?

Just like we have to eat well and exercise to stay physically fit? Mental, physical, and emotional health need our time and attention to stay stable. And that means we have to create space and energy for self-care.

We also need to set boundaries to create space to be ourselves. If we never create that proverbial ‘fenced in area’, we have no room to know who we are, or what we feel.

Do you set enough boundaries?

We all have some personal limits, things we easily say no to. If someone asked you to rob a bank for them, for example, you’d in all likelihood say no.

And we all, of course, occasionally drop boundaries and ‘overdo it’. If someone in our family is ill, or there is a challenging life change, we can all go through a period of putting our own needs last.

But if you put yourself last most, if not all of the time? And always put everyone else’s needs before your own? There is a boundary issue.

A quick test to learn your boundaries

A quick test to see if you have enough boundaries is to right now, in this moment, list the last five times you said no to people. Do you go blank or struggle to find one or two instances?

Then try to state the five rules to being your friend. Are there any?

Finally, try to describe yourself in a few sentences. Does it feel hard? Or do you only describe yourself in relationship to other people - mother, employee? Lacking an identity is a key sign of poor boundaries.

Signs you lack boundaries

  • saying no makes you feel really guilty
  • it really matters to you that others like you
  • you feel you have to deserve attention and respect by being ‘nice’
  • worrying about what others think is a daily occurrence
  • you want others to be happy and feel bad if they aren’t
  • you sometimes do things that you aren’t even sure you like
  • and you spend time with people you sometimes wonder if you like
  • in fact you aren’t that sure what you do or don’t like
  • doing things for yourself feels somehow selfish to you
  • goals and hobbies keep getting put off as there is never time
  • you feel anxious if you think you are going to upset someone
  • saying no, if you must, involves hours and days of anxious planning
  • decision-making causes you anxiety, you prefer others to decide
  • you often feel angry inside but you'd never ever tell anyone
  • you are often tired or with ongoing colds and flus.

Why do I lack boundaries?

It tends to come from childhood. If you grew up in a family home where you weren’t allow to have privacy, for example, or your own thoughts and emotions? You can be so used to going along with others you don’t set boundaries.

Personal boundary issues can also come from a codependent relationship with a parent or caregiver. You had to please the parent, either as the parent was ill, or because the parent only gave love and affection if you were ‘good’ and ‘pleasing’.

Finally, childhood trauma can destroy our sense of self, which can leave us an adult without any boundaries.

Ready to learn how to set boundaries and take back your time and energy? Book a session with a counsellor now and start taking back your personal power.

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