Today’s post was inspired by my blogging friend Praghalba’s poem and by a conversation we had in the comments!
Setting boundaries with people who overstep can yield 2 results: one, the person realizes how their words or actions have negatively impacted someone else, and their conscience impels them to change, or 2, the person doesn’t see our point or is unable to make any changes because of their own inner issues.
Setting boundaries with people who themselves struggle with the concept can be very challenging, because there often is a lot of denial, push-back, and gaslighting, as the other person seeks to deflect what they feel is criticism by redirecting the conversation away from themselves.
Yes, there are people who gaslight when someone wants to have a boundaries conversation because they personally benefit from no boundaries being in place. They choose to live in denial about their actions and the effects they have on others, and will gaslight and redirect any blame they feel into other directions, rather than take responsibility for their actions and words.
This lack of honesty or being able to take responsibility for one’s own actions or words creates resentment, anger, fights, retaliation, and even further verbal or physical violence.
Often when we try to set boundaries with other people, we have expectations that they will change or modify their behavior once we make them aware of how it is affecting us.
We can equate their love for us with their ability to respond to our needs.
When the other person doesn’t change, try to change, or even deflects and turns it against us by claiming we’re just too sensitive, that we’re being dramatic, that we’re being a bitch, or that we’re crazy, we feel absolutely devastated. It’s difficult to keep standing our ground and standing up for ourselves, for in deflecting their responsibility they often resort to name-calling and making the person who is setting their boundaries feel like a “bitch” or say they’re crazy!!
We can take it very personally that the other person just doesn’t care about us to the same degree we do about them, and that feels very hurtful to be unseen or ignored.
We feel let down by our unmet expectations and we can develop resentment, distrust, and even get pro-actively defensive or aggressive.
Simply trying to state our boundaries to someone who doesn’t see them or isn’t able to respect them, will end up hurting the relationship if it becomes a contest of wills.
How can we have a boundaries discussion where there are results which come from it?
When we walk into a discussion, where we have expectations of the other person, i.e. “if they love me, they will want to change to make me happy”, we actually set ourselves up for disappointment, because we have subconsciously equated the other person’s actions or inactions as a testament to their love!
What if the person does love us, but only knows how to show it in unhealthy ways because they themselves are still struggling with inner damage from their own pasts?
How do we navigate these types of relationships, if we’ve asked a few self-reflection questions such as:
- What are my personal boundaries when this happens?
- Do I want to stay in a relationship with someone who does this?
- If yes, why do I feel I need to?
Setting boundaries with CONSEQUENCES
Often we’re hesitant to set boundaries with consequences because we don’t really understand what they are, how to have the conversation, or how to act when the person doesn’t respect the boundaries we wish to implement. We’re afraid the person will receive it as criticism or an attack, but clearly stating the consequences helps us if the person does continue to ignore our boundaries.
What are boundaries with consequences?
Simply put, we’re stating what OUR response or action will be when a boundary is crossed.
To me, having boundary-setting discussions doesn’t have to take the form of criticism when we share with the other person, because we can use a lot of “me” words!
What would happen if you state boundaries with consequences attached?
For example: “When you do x, I feel (disrespected/ unheard/ unimportant to you, etc). I understand that I cannot demand that you change, for that’s your choice, but if you choose to continue to do x, then I need to do y, for myself.
Setting clear boundaries also involves letting the other person know what you need to do for yourself if they do choose to continue their behavior, and then gently following through!!
This helps restore an unequal power balance, where the other person’s inactions contribute to our own worsening mental health!
Instead of waiting on the other person to behave the way we wish them to and feeling resentful when they don’t, we reclaim the power of being able to take action for our own greater good!
Years ago my mother would call me every day. The conversation always started pleasantly, but would soon devolve into her being hurtful and critical towards me. I was tired and exhausted from crying and being hurt by her words, so one day I told her, “When you become critical it’s not helpful to me but very hurtful. In the future when you start, I’m going to signal that our conversation has ended, because I am no longer going to sit here to receive your negativity.”
Then when she’d start in on me, I’d tell her, “Mom, it’s time for me to go now. The conversation has turned a negative corner and I need to go.”
I needed to repeat that process each time because boundaries are nonexistent for her.
My brother has been practicing this for the past few years when he visits her because she still hasn’t dealt with her own inner stuff to be able to be respectful towards others for any length of time before she starts crossing lines.
My brother spent years (as did I) trying to get her to change her behavior. Finally, we needed to accept that she is who she is, and the only thing we can do is to set our own boundaries with consequences, and then to follow through on what we had said we would do.
Has this caused her to want to change her own behavior? Not really.
Has she modified her behavior as a result? She has become aware that if she just “speaks her mind” that people pull away from her, but at some point, she almost isn’t able to help herself.
For our own mental health, we leave or end the conversation, and she seems to understand and accept the terms we set!
By gently stating our boundaries, the consequences if they’re crossed, and then gently taking action, we can avoid escalating these scenarios into full-blown fights!
We can’t change other people’s behavior, only our own!
There are many people who feel it is their right to “speak their mind”, and have no desire to be “politically correct”, or even to be respectful towards others. In the past few years, these sentiments have only gotten stronger with some people, and the Pandemic has affected many people’s mental health and their ability to remain calm in even minor situations.
Trying to “get” someone to see that their behavior is disrespectful or even hurtful, can elicit mocking amusement from them instead of the desired response. Their internal climate focuses on ‘winners’ or ‘losers’, with them being the ‘winner’ for knocking someone out with their anger or their words. If someone finds their behavior objectionable, they are accused of being ‘weak’.
My own observations have shown that people who have this mindset and behavior pattern were also treated the same way. They became hardened in their outlook towards others, to appear to be dominant, and to use this dominance to deflect any further aggression towards themselves.
Whether you agree with their outlook or not, they are who they are, and will only change if they choose to, but that process takes a deep and often painful inward journey they would much rather avoid!
So, if you choose to continue a relationship with this person in your life, all you can change is how you respond to them!
Setting boundaries with consequences you follow through with is a healthy way to deal with these situations!
The downside of not setting boundaries or not following through
If you set boundaries, and don’t follow through on the actions you said you’d take, the other person sees that they can do as they please and won’t be able to respect you. They respect the strength it takes to stand by your words, even if they give push-back.
If you don’t follow through, you are essentially training them to continue to disrespect you.
If they’re being rude or disrespectful to you, they’re showing you they don’t approve of you or something about you. Unfortunately, trying to chase their approval by being compliant with their treatment of you will never win their approval!
By accepting that you won’t gain their approval by being their doormat, you may find the inner strength to step away from their negative barrage.
Why continue to lose pieces of yourself and your mental health all in an attempt to hold onto that relationship at all costs? That kind of relationship isn’t worth the cost to yourself, and if you choose to set boundaries with consequences, you stand to regain your own self-worth and self-respect!
You are allowed to set the tone for how you want to be treated and to set the terms if they overstep.
I wish you inner strength as you deal with the individuals in your life you are setting boundaries with! Know where your line in the sand is and be comfortable stating it each time it’s crossed. Then follow through on the actions you need to take to take care of your own mental health!
PS, we aren’t being a bitch by setting our boundaries! We aren’t crazy for seeing them crossed or even erased by another person! We ARE taking responsibility for our own actions and setting up expectations of how we are to be treated!
I’m sharing more posts that may be helpful for you:
- 10 Steps to Owning Our Happiness
- Setting “Boundaries with consequences”
- Making a change… “How do I take that first step?”
- Affirmation: Today is a new day! I can do this!
- As we practice being gentle and kind with ourselves, we actually help to speed the process of helping our lives become more positive!
- Always believe that wonderful things can happen!
- A healthy outside starts from the inside!
- Brain Rewiring
More good stuff:
Please go to my Archived Posts page to find more wonderful posts to check out!
Guided Journals help you work on a particular issue by answering questions to help see patterns and to find solutions:
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