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  • Writer's pictureDana Arcuri

How to Build Better Boundaries

When you were a child or teen, were you taught to set boundaries? Did your parent, relatives, or teachers model healthy boundaries? As an adult, have you implemented personal boundaries?

As a child, teen, and young adult, I wasn’t taught boundaries. My mother didn’t have boundaries. She never modeled it, nor practiced it. Instead, she pushed every single button of mine. She disrespected me. Not just once or twice, but hundreds of times. She treated me like I was an unworthy object; not a special human being.

Her unspoken message to me: “You have no value. You’re not important. Obey my rules or you will suffer the consequences. Do as I say, not as I do.”

In my work as a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach, I know it's hard for some survivors to set clear boundaries. Please know this is a normal and common trauma response. Abuse survivors were taught lies about what’s right and wrong.

Oftentimes, we’ve come to accept unhealthy and abnormal behaviors to be normal. In reality, they are abnormal. Yet, it’s all we have known.

Through brainwashing, gaslighting, and manipulation, we’ve been taught four lies:

1. You are a bad person.

2. The abuse was your fault.

3. You should be ashamed of yourself.

4. You are powerless.

Dear Beautiful Souls, it's time to dismantle the lies that you were brainwashed to believe. They are not true! Even if the perpetrators didn’t take accountability, they are responsible for what they said and did to you. You are not meant to carry a heavy burden of toxic shame, guilt, or blame for what the narcissist or perpetrators had inflicted upon you.

May you know you are deserving to be treated with tenderness, dignity, compassion, empathy, and love. Your personal boundaries should be respected by others. Most survivors have experienced the narcissist and flying monkeys who disregarded their boundaries.

Oftentimes, they punished you for setting healthy boundaries. They push back. They don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I’ve experienced this by my mom, abusive sisters, and relative’s numerous times.

In effort to understand boundaries, let’s first define what it is. According to Wikipedia, Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules, or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe, and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.

Our boundaries are not about other people. Rather, it is about us and our perimeters. We set our own standards. We determine what is right or inappropriate for us. We set our limits on what types of behaviors we accept and what isn’t tolerable.

Psychology Today defines boundaries as An invisible line you draw around yourself to identify what is acceptable behavior. Healthy boundaries are a line between two people. For each person, this can look different. Each one of us may have our own set of guidelines for what we permit versus what we will not permit by another person.

For those who were raised in a dysfunctional family where you may have experienced bullying, gaslighting, manipulation, and abuse, there are higher chances that your parent’s or caregiver did not teach you about healthy boundaries. Therefore, as a child and/or teenager, you were not aware of boundaries, due to lack of having a role model. For many of my clients and YouTube viewers, it was not until they were an adult when they set better boundaries.

Six Types of Healthy Boundaries:

1. Physical Boundaries – This relates to your personal space, privacy, and your body. For example, some people who may stand too close to you or get in your face are sign of overstepping your boundaries. Another example is when children are told to hug a relative or stranger, such as an uncle who they barely know. It may feel quite uncomfortable to the child and cause them great distress.

2. Emotional Boundaries – This is a limit that protects ourselves from manipulation, mistreatment, and being hurt. An emotional boundary is standing up for your beliefs, values, thoughts, and morals. It is a healthy expression of our self-respect, self-worth, and dignity.

3. Financial Boundaries – This is how you save, spend, give, earn, and budget your money. A healthy financial boundary in a marriage is freely opening up your own bank account, especially if you have a professional business. When a spouse or partner refuses to let you have your own bank account, credit cards, or your own money, it is a red flag for overstepping your financial boundaries. It is financial abuse.

4. Online Boundaries – This is important for social media, emails, text messages, and the internet. It seems like no one talks about this topic. Yet, how many of us are being silenced, censored, bullied, stalked, and verbally attacked online? An example of a healthy online boundary is to not participate in hurtful and cruel comments, especially on social media. My personal online boundaries for my YouTube channel do require me to first review all comments before they go live. On my YouTube channel, I don’t approve of negative, hostile, or cruel comments. If someone writes a malicious, offensive, mean-spirited remark, I report them, block them, and carry on.

5. Sexual Boundaries – This means that you have specific rules pertaining to your comfort level around physical touch, intimacy, affection, your physical body, and sexual behaviors. An example of someone crossing your line of sexual boundaries is when you meet someone new and they instantly start asking you for nude pictures or private messaging you their own nude pics. It’s inappropriate.

6. Spiritual Boundaries – Each person has their own personal beliefs about organized religion. Not everyone has the same upbringing, understanding, educational background, religious beliefs, or spiritual beliefs as others. Some folks believe in God, while others may believe in a Higher Creator, or something totally different. Religious gaslighting is when someone uses the Bible, verses, or God as a weapon to hurt you, to shame you, to condemn you, and to ostracize you. For example, on social media, I’ve seen so-called Christian’s demand abuse survivors ‘forgive the sexual predator’ or ‘forgive your father for physically abusing you.’ This is rude, insulting, and repulsive. It’s not up to anyone else on whether you forgive the abuser, predator, or narcissist. It’s your life. Your choice. Only you can make the best decision for yourself. A person named Autumn Shroud sums up this toxic mindset about forgiveness. He said, “The concept of forgiveness allows the abuser to still abuse, and keeps the victim in a constant state of victimhood.”

Common Reasons for Unhealthy Boundaries

Perhaps, you were not taught healthy boundaries as a child or young adult? Your needs and wants may have been ignored, denied, ridiculed, or minimized. Do you find yourself people-pleasing in effort to keep the peace? You don’t want to offend anyone. You prefer to go with the flow. You may try to avoid conflicts. You may fear standing up for yourself. You may avoid speaking up when other’s hurt you.

Another reason you may not have built better boundaries is because you were raised by an abusive parent, caregiver, or narcissist. It may have been one or more narcissistic parents, a grandparent, or a toxic sibling who bullied you. Most narcissistic parents expect that all of their needs and wants are met, despite how unrealistic it is to expect that from a child or teen. Lastly, you may have suffered intense abuse by your intimate partner, spouse, or friend who’s a narcissist. They may have insisted you ‘submit’ to them. The covert narcissist may have ridiculed you, condemned you, silenced you, and psychologically tormented you for so long that you couldn’t set boundaries for yourself. Or even if you did have boundaries, the narcissist incessantly violated them.

How to Create Healthy Boundaries:

1. Educate yourself about healthy boundaries.

2. Determine what your limits and rules are for yourself.

3. Be aware of the signs when someone crossed your boundaries.

4. Learn to bravely speak up if someone oversteps your boundaries.

5. It is perfectly fine to say ‘no’ to someone who isn’t in alignment with your morals, values, lifestyle, and beliefs.

6. Release feeling guilty for creating boundaries. There is nothing to be guilty or ashamed of. It’s for your own protection and peace of mind.

7. Be clear in what you ask for and what you want or need.

8. Seek emotional support.

9. Learn to express your authentic emotions even if you disagree with someone or when you have your own unique perspective. Understand that not everyone will respect your boundaries. You do have permission to show them to the door.

10. Trust your gut instincts and body signals that are alerting you of potential danger. Listen to that soft voice within you that guides you to safety.

Creating better boundaries is a super-power! It puts you back in the driver’s seat of your life. You become the CEO for your standards and limits. Today, understand that the ONLY people who get upset when you set boundaries are the ones who benefitted from you having none. To gain more insight about creating boundaries, breaking free from narcissistic abuse, or toxic relationships, check out my new Amazon bestselling book, Soul Rescue: How to Break Free from Narcissistic Abuse & Heal Trauma.

Note: This blog post is from a chapter in my book, Soul Rescue: How to Break Free from Narcissistic Abuse & Heal Trauma.

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