Boundaries. We all need them and we all have them. Yet, not everyone lives out healthy boundaries. Life is made up of boundaries…some other-imposed and some self-imposed. Healthy boundaries provide emotional and physical safety for us. When these are in place we have the best opportunity to live our life to the fullest for God. But when these boundaries are crossed over, non-existent, or selfishly enforced on us, then life becomes difficult, stressed, or even seemingly hopeless.

In my years of working with women, I have seen that many of them have not connected life struggles to boundary issues. Numerous women are simply not able to see past their life situation at the moment, or they may not have an understanding of what red flags to look for.

I am going to touch on eight possible indicators that you might be living with unhealthy boundaries. Using the acronym BOUNDARY, my hope is that these markers will be a starting point for you to begin evaluating your own personal boundaries.

BAWLING: Ugh, those dreaded tears! “Why do they always show up at the most inopportune time?” “I don’t even know why I am crying…it seems unreasonable!” Have you ever said these statements to yourself? The bottom line is that when you are feeling walked over, unappreciated, not listened to, or constantly fighting for any forward movement, life can get to you. And that means those tear ducts can begin to overflow. Tears themselves, are not a problem. Instead, this can be an excellent opportunity for you to uncover the meaning behind them. If you find yourself consistently on the verge of tears, or crying often, reflect on what they are saying. The message will likely be loud and clear.

OVERWHELMED:Life is too tough.” “Why doesn’t anything ever work out the way I want?” “How did my life get so out of hand?” Have you ever heard these statements come out of your mouth? Overwhelmed people have not taken full ownership of what does, and does not, enter their life [of course, this is within reason, as some things are out of our control]. I have a saying, “Own your life, don’t let your life own you.” God gave you this life and He has plans for you to accomplish. What things are not working out for you? In what ways is life too tough? What parts of your life seems out of hand? Be specific. Then tackle each area with the knowledge that you have permission to own your life.

UNORGANIZED: Face it, when you are not really certain what you want to happen in your day, you often accomplish just what you shoot for…. nothing. I am not necessarily meaning you are unorganized in your paperwork, house work, business responsibilities etc. [although my guess is that plays into your troubles]. I am talking about being unorganized in your daily expectations and desired accomplishments. I am talking about being unorganized in your heart and mind. It is about being confused about what you want, or what you think you are allowed to dream for. Decide to get an organized heart and mind. Carve out time to develop that “bucket list” and then get busy and organize for it to happen. Write it out, pen it [versus pencil it] into your calendar, and schedule change into your life.

NUMB: Sometimes it just seems easier to shut yourself off emotionally, mentally, relationally and spiritually. “Better to live numb, then feel so much pain” is often a way women cope with all the messy stuff that life brings. Yet, being numb does not change the truth of your problems. Instead it only smoke screens the pain so you can tell yourself it is not there. Make an intentional decision to deal with hurt, pain, loss, or poisonous relationships. Start feeling. Face the negative and embrace the positive. Be certain you are developing your love relationship with Christ also, as He gives you the strength you need to put foundational actions into place for all the other parts of your life.

DOUBTING: Self-doubt is a paralyzer. It puts a person in a flux. It has the power to get you to change your mind, even when your decision is acceptable and reasonable. Women who live in unhealthy boundaries do not trust themselves. Yet, women who are assertive do not live a life of doubt. They live a life of certainty. They know what they want and they respectfully reach for that outcome. Examine your self-doubts. Who told you “no” to your ideas, dreams, and hopes? What you believe is what you will live out. Know where your beliefs come from and whether they are a truth or a lie.

ABUSED OR ABUSIVE: People relate to others in four common ways: passively, aggressively, passive-aggressively, and assertively. Only the assertive relating style provides people with the emotional and physical safety they are warranted in life. The other three relating styles steal self-worth from you, force low self-worth onto you, or manipulate self-worth from you. Learn about how you allow others to treat you, or how you are treating others. This understanding alone can change the direction of your life [I offer teaching on this topic at www.unhooked7stepstoemotionalfreedom.com].

RESISTANT TO INPUT: Ok, so I know this might sound a bit of a judgmental statement, but most often women with unhealthy boundaries are quite unteachable. This is not always about pride [although that could be one reason] but likely it is because these women are fearful of change. Change requires responsibility, and responsibility requires assertive courage. Yikes, that can be scary and hard work. Consider taking an inventory about your willingness to let others “speak into your life.” If you discover you have been resistant to some good advice, then dig deeper into why this might be happening. Self-evaluation is key to self-growth.

YEARNING FOR A FULLER LIFE: I know exactly what this feels like. For me, it was horrible. At one time I felt so empty, unloved, and lonely. I wanted something more to life, but to be honest with you, I just did not know how to get it. Thanks be to God that my life is not like that anymore! I now live a full life [not the same as trouble-free, of course] and could not be more grateful for the change. I changed my boundaries. It started with my spiritual boundary. Accepting Christ into my life was the healthiest boundary I ever set. I was no longer living without God. Not only did I receive unconditional love and hope, I found out that I did not have to “fix” all this boundary stuff single-handedly. God would help, and He would bring others into my life to help give me direction. The rest is history. As I matured, I began to establish healthy boundaries in my life by becoming aware of the red flags, therefore making a deliberate choice to reach for a more fulfilling life. Seek for that fulfilling life if it is something you want. Learn how to fill your empty yearning. You won’t regret getting ownership of your life back so you can live a deep and rich life.

Seed for thought: Which one of these eight signs resonated with you? What is one thing you can to do to begin bringing a change and set a healthier boundary in that area? What difference do you think that change will make in your life?

I’d love to hear how you have answered the above questions. Feel free to comment or leave thoughts and questions on this post. If you are looking for further assistance in empowering yourself to begin these changes please feel free to email me at kariscounsel@gmail.com.

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  1. Melany says:

    Great eye-catching title, and creative way to explain unhealthy boundaries! I love using the acronym to remember. It’s an important topic. Thank you for writing it.

  2. Karen says:

    Hi Melany, Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I agree that boundaries is such an important topic. I know that my life is more stable when I remember to apply these principles. Glad you found the acronym helpful.

  3. I agree with Melany. I just love the acronym. I’ll definitely be using it for myself and my clients.

  4. Anita says:

    These are very useful signs. I have so many friends who might have welcomed this type of article in the young mom years when life can seem overwhelming. Mostly as a young mom time with god was really helpful. I think everyone can slide into unhealthy boundaries during stressful times though, even if they are mostly living in a healthy way.

  5. Karen says:

    Hi Kathy, I am glad you found it helpful. Great that you will pass this information on to your clients.

  6. Karen says:

    Hi Anita, Thanks for your comments. Yes, I wish I had understood boundary setting when my children were young. I likely would have done some things very different. I also agree that even when we are living in a healthy way we can slide into unhealthy boundaries. I have caught myself just recently recognizing that I needed to strengthen some boundary issues. It made a great difference when I set them. Absolutely, time with God is priority! All of us need His guidance, wisdom, and daily relationship.

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