Boundary. What comes to mind when you read that word? A wall? A road block? When first introduced to the concept, people often think of boundaries as barriers, cutting oneself off from relationship, or isolation. While some boundaries are this rigid and exclusive, most more closely resemble fences with gates. The let in the good and keep out the bad.
A few years ago, the movie Yes Man was released. In it, Jim Carey played a character who said “no” to everything. In doing so, he missed out on opportunities for fun, companionship, and advancement at work. Later on, he decided to always say “yes.” Doing so put him in unsafe and undesirable situations at times.
The goal of boundaries is to be able to say “yes” and “no” effectively and with equal ease. “Yes” to the good. “No” to the bad. That’s where each of us has our own challenges. Read below and see which one or two boundary challenge patterns you experience the most.
Compliant: Those who tend toward compliance have poorly defined boundaries. They are like chameleons, always changing, depending on the environment. They have difficulty saying “no” and thus tend to say “yes” to the bad. They are often motivated by fear and guilt. As a result, they often take on too many responsibilities.
Avoidant: Those who tend to be avoidant have difficulty recognizing their own needs and withdraw in hard times. They have difficulty seeking the help of others and tend to say “no” to the good. They mistake boundaries for walls.
Compliant-Avoidant: Some folks struggle with both of these issues. In essence, they have boundaries where they are not needed and lack boundaries where they are.
Controlling: Those who tend toward a control pattern disrespect the boundaries of others. They can be manipulative and aggressive. They have difficulty hearing “no.” They look for ways to motivate others to take on the responsibility that is theirs. They lack discipline and impulse control. They often feel unloved.
Non-responsive: Those who tend toward non-responsiveness ignore the needs of others or are too absorbed in their own needs to even notice the needs of others.
While each of us has been known to do all of the above, we tend to experience some more likely than others. In what area do you most struggle? Saying “yes,” or saying “no”? Letting in the good, or keeping out the bad? Being sensitive to the needs of others, or allowing others to help you get your needs met? Which is your area for growth?