guilt

How to Set a Boundary with Someone You Care About

Setting boundaries can be really scary. For one thing, you may not be able to trust yourself to set the boundary in a way that feels good to you. Even more than that just the idea of hurting their feelings is enough to make you cringe away from the very idea.

It’s just that when we don’t set boundaries regularly, things build up.

You may think you are preserving the relationship by not saying anything (you’re strong enough to deal with it, right?), but what actually ends up happening is that when you finally get fed up and set the boundary it comes out of you in. . .let’s just say not the most ideal way.

I see this cycle play itself out for so many clients. The client wants to be kind and forgiving not make waves. So they don’t set any boundaries. At first it feels fine. Little by little things start to feel more aggravating. Eventually a small thing feels like a big problem and the client gets snappy, or loud, or mean when they set the boundary. The person the client set the boundary with feels like the client lost their shit for no reason.

Nothing the client said was heard.

They end up feeling not only like boundary setting doesn’t work because no one listens, but they also end up feeling ashamed of the way they handled the situation. Unfortunately, this causes the client to swing all the way back to being passive and not setting any boundaries out of guilt. And the cycle continues; no boundaries with building aggravation swings to aggressive boundary setting, which leads to shame and guilt about boundaries.

Here’s one way it can play out. Imagine for a moment having a mom that you love very much but she drives you up the wall regularly (far fetched, I know). You appreciate her and like to talk to her regularly, but it seems every time you talk with her she seems to feel like she needs to tell you something else that she thinks you need to take care of or do differently. It makes you feel like you can’t relax around her, and often you end up cutting your time with her short.

Honestly there’s a part of you that feels really good about the fact that you don’t lose your temper with her, but you are starting to realize that the time you spend together doesn’t feel good and your relationship has been feeling more superficial and forced. One day when she makes another one of her comments you just can’t stand it anymore, and you end up snapping at her and telling her to get off your ass! But now her feelings are hurt, and you feel like a jerk.

So you feel like an asshole, your mom’s feelings are hurt, and you certainly don’t feel closer to her or like you protected the relationship.

All you ended up doing by not setting the boundary in the first place is ensured that the way you set the boundary was not the way you would have wanted to communicate with your mom.

If you can’t set boundaries and feel like things go to hell when you try, you end up avoiding the people you care about.

Look, boundaries are hard.

Finding the balance of making sure you communicate what you need in a way that is kind and neutral is hard. It’s really normal to feel overwhelmed by boundary setting. A lot of people end up just trying to suck it up (until they blow up) or avoiding the whole deal in the first place.

Difficulty with boundary setting can make you feel touchy and maybe even make you feel crazy sometimes for blowing up. If you can learn, step by step, how to set a boundary that is not dependent on how the other person responds, you can start to trust yourself to handle these situations more smoothly. When we follow these simple steps for how to effectively set a boundary, we can start to feel more in control of our communication, and we can feel heard in our relationships.

Keep reading to learn how to feel comfortable and more confident setting boundaries today.

Why bother? No one listens anyway.

The worst thing about not setting any boundaries is that your only options are to avoid people you care about or lose your temper when you can’t stand it anymore. This means you either lose intimacy in important relationships or end up feeling like a lose cannon.

At the very least you end up feeling like what you need doesn’t matter and you have to “suck it up”.

Living like this is not fulfilling at best and frustrating at worst.

Be in control of the way you communicate in relationships.

Although you struggle with the guilt that comes with knowing that you are going to hurt the feelings of someone you care about if you set a boundary, you have the potential to feel calm and in control of the way that you are communicating.

You can communicate your boundaries in a way that enhances and protects your relationships.

When we choose to set boundaries in a way that empowers us to communicate what we need with no strings attached, with recognition that we don’t get to affect the way that what you say is received or responded to, you can finally feel ready to take on your relationships in a more honest and authentic way.

This is an opportunity for you to communicate kindly and effectively so that you can feel empowered and authentic in your relationships, regardless of how capable the people in your life are at respecting your boundaries.

How to Set Boundaries Kindly and Effectively

boundaries relationships communicating no one listens authentic communication

Yes, you might be feeling frustrated with setting boundaries and communicating your needs in relationships, but the key to feeling empowered and authentic in your relationships is to set kind and consistent boundaries. It is scary to think about communicating things that are possibly upsetting to people you care about, but it feels a lot better when you can trust yourself to communicate in a way that you can feel good about. When you follow this simple, step by step path, you will start to notice that you can be more authentic and kind in your relationships.

Take a look at these steps to see how you can feel more authentic and comfortable communicating in your relationships.

Authentic, Consistent Communication

One of the main reasons you struggle to communicate your needs to the people who are important to you is fear of hurting their feelings or upsetting them. It makes complete sense that you feel guilty for making things worse or hurting the relationship when every time you try to set a boundary it ends up in flames. But it doesn’t have to stay this way when you start implementing authentic, consistent communication.

1) Identify the common thread

When you are regularly getting upset in one of your relationships, the first step is to try to understand what it is that is happening, or what you feel is getting communicated. It’s really easy to just act as though these are stand alone experiences that you can get over. When you start to pay attention, though, you’re probably going to notice that there is a theme. Maybe you get upset when you are given unsolicited advice. Maybe what really gets to you is when people flake out on plans. Maybe the really hard thing is when you feel like your feelings are dismissed.

Whatever it is, it is very likely that it happens often in the same relationship.

In sessions we will examine the instances when you feel that your boundaries were crossed or your needs weren’t met by the people in your life. We will explore other times when you have felt similarly and then find the common thread together. What we are looking for is what actually upset you and why you don’t like what happened. It’s not usually enough to just know that you didn’t like that the person was late to meet for coffee, but it is more helpful to be able to say, “I don’t feel like you respect my time.”

When you are able to identify the common thread in the instances of being angry or upset with a specific person, it will enable you to communicate more fully and precisely what it is that isn’t working and what you need next time.

2) Communicate honestly, and kindly

The two issues that I see most often that are impeding communication are either not communicating honestly or fully (“Of course I don’t mind!”) or communicating aggressively because we have waited until we are full on pissed before we said anything. Ideally we want to communicate what we don’t like and why, what we need to be different next time, and how we will react if this trespass happens again. We want to do that as neutrally and kindly as humanly possible, so that regardless of how the other person reacts, you can feel good about what you said and how you said it.

I recognize that this is very difficult. This is why in session I support my clients not only in identifying what they want to say, but also practicing how to phrase it.

We identify potential ways to respond if the communication isn’t received well, and we walk through step by step identifying how to respond in different scenarios.

This is a really important part of the process. If you can identify and feel good about how you are going to respond if your boundary is received really poorly, you are empowered to engage in the relationship only in a way that feels good to you. This is a big deal! You get to feel good about your boundary, what you said, and how you said it, regardless of the way that the other person responds to you.

3) Be consistent

This is where things fall apart for most of us. We wait until we feel like it’s a big deal before we say anything. We let it slide. We say we’re not going to put up with it anymore but then we do. In a lot of ways it is easier to just not deal with it until it feels like a big deal. The issue with this is that you will notice yourself either avoiding your relationships, or blowing up every so often when you want to set a boundary. This is why you end up feeling like no one respects your boundaries. Because you aren’t enforcing your boundaries, and that is the bulk of the work.

When you schedule a session with me I will talk with you about what boundaries you might be overlooking and how that might be impacting your relationships. We will explore what happens when you decide to let things slide, and together we will determine which boundaries you feel you need to start enforcing, and which you feel can be put on the back burner for a while.

You don’t have to take on every issue in every relationship, but when you make the decision to take it on, it’s good to stay consistent.

Make sure that you know exactly how you will respond when your boundary isn’t respected and then you and I will hold you accountable (gently and kindly of course) for staying consistent in the way you handle it.

Adding this boundary setting technique to your life will help you feel more in control in your relationships. You will notice that you don’t feel as though you have to censor yourself quite so much because you trust what comes out of your mouth. You will start to notice that you get to be more authentic in your relationships because you are comfortable with what will happen if someone doesn’t like what you have to say.

Being able to set boundaries in a kind and consistent way can be invigorating.

You absolutely can feel authentic in your relationships and still take care of yourself.

Therapy can help you to sort through what is and isn’t working in your relationships, and identify exactly how you would like to handle it from now on so that you can feel empowered and confident moving forward.

Schedule a free consultation now.

Top 10 Ways to Keep Your Imposter Syndrome in Check

Like it isn’t hard enough to do the things you need to do and juggle all of your responsibilities, doing all of those things while feeling like an incompetent fraud definitely doesn’t make it easier.

Impostor Syndrome can get in the way of success at work, cause issues in your relationships, and cause you to miss out on opportunities.

When we live our lives trying desperately to hide that we don’t feel good enough, or that we don’t feel we deserve the trust that has been put in us it makes everything harder and makes us feel more isolated. We start to feel like we need to fake our way through and just hope that no one catches on.

When you feel like you have to hide from the people around you it gets really hard to build close relationships and communicate openly and effectively with the people who love you. You end up feeling like you can’t share anything about yourself, especially not anything that might make you feel vulnerable; you know, like feelings. And I don’t know if you’ve had this experience but it’s really hard to build relationships and get our needs met when we don’t talk about feelings. They’re kind of a big deal.

Living with imposter syndrome is like always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

We start to feel like there is impending doom that we are barely missing. When things go well we say, “Phew! That was lucky!” and when things go to shit we say, “I hope this isn’t when everyone finds out what a fraud I am,” and we feel shame.

Maybe for you it’s the easiest to see at work.

You’re the person everyone comes to when they have questions, and you’re regularly lauded as being one of the best at what you do. You always turn in your projects on time, and they are always of exceptional quality. At least that’s what everyone else says about them.

You would think that being celebrated so often would help you feel more confident.

It seems reasonable that you could breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that you are appreciated and valued by the people who work with you.

In the moment when you are getting the positive feedback it feels like a huge relief, like you got away with it.

But the pressure immediately starts mounting again.

What if you can’t pull it off next time? What if you can’t keep this up? Surely someone is going to find out that you aren’t as good as everyone seems to believe you are.

This just turns into a cycle where you hold yourself to higher and higher standards to meet what you perceive as the expectations of the people around you. It leads you to be extra critical of yourself and sometimes you find yourself taking it out on other people, too. The shot of adrenaline and level of fear that you feel every time you think about a deadline is dizzying.

You get to a point where you either throw yourself into the projects at the expense of everything else in your life in an effort to make sure it’s “good enough” or you procrastinate the hell out of it.

This is stressful not just for you, but it takes you away from your family and all of your other priorities. But you try not to think about that too hard because it just turns into something else to beat yourself up about.

The truth is that it’s not just you who feels like they always have to hide so as not to be found out as a fraud. This is actually a fairly common experience. We forget that often even the people we really look up to question themselves and don’t trust in their own capabilities.

Being able to accept compliments and feel like it really applies to you is not a function of your actual capabilities.

It’s okay to have a hard time accepting compliments, and it is okay to have a hard time trusting the way that the people around you see you. But the experience of Imposter Syndrome doesn’t have to take you away from everything else that is important to you.

Living with Imposter Syndrome is incredibly challenging, and can make even the smallest project you take on feel out of your depth. Luckily there are skills you can use to limit the influence Imposter Syndrome has over you so you can feel excited to take on new challenges instead of worrying so much. When you implement these skills you will feel calmer, more confident, and more connected to the people around you.

Keep reading to learn the top ten skills you can use to keep your Imposter Syndrome in check.

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When “fake it to make it” doesn’t work anymore

The worst part of living with unchecked Imposter Syndrome is that you can never relax. You are never going to feel like you’ve fully proven yourself and doing well actually makes you feel more pressure.

You’re in a double bind; you feel shame if you mess up, but you feel shame if you do well, also, because the positive attention feels undeserved.

At the very least you find yourself dreading projects and avoiding putting yourself in a position where you might be critiqued.

Living this way is just not sustainable. How are you supposed to find and invest in projects that are engaging and fulfilling to you if you are limited by avoiding putting yourself in a position to be seen by the people around you? But agonizing over the small details of your presentations long after your family has gone to bed doesn’t feel like a good option either.

Remain calm, confident, and collected

Although Imposter Syndrome has a hold on you now, you have the potential to feel confident about your abilities, and capable of engaging in each challenge as it presents itself without holding yourself to extreme standards.

When you use these top 10 skills, there is a possibility for you to feel calmer in the face of deadlines and presentations, more confident in your skills and abilities, and more capable to making empowered decisions about how much time you want to invest in projects and how much should be invested in other things.

You can absolutely experience compliments as sincere, feel calm and confident before deadlines, and trust in your own abilities.

Top Ten Skills to Feel Calm and Confident

So you may be feeling like you have to fake your way through and just hope that you don’t get found out right now, but you don’t have to feel that way forever.

The key to be able to feel calmer and more confident is to use these clear steps to keep your Imposter Syndrome in check

These changes are small and manageable, and not nearly as hard to implement as it may seem in the beginning.

Check out these 10 skills to keep your Imposter Syndrome in check, leaving you calm and confident.

10) Be nicer in the way you speak to yourself

You would be surprised how often you are telling yourself what a lazy piece of shit you are. If you really paid attention, it is probably happening close to constantly. We can talk more in future blogs about why we do that, but all we need to know for our purposes today is how important it is to practice noticing so that you can start to speak to yourself more kindly.

Although you may not be consciously listening to the litany of insults you inflict on yourself on a daily basis, they are absolutely affecting the way you experience yourself and your capabilities. If you can start to interrupt some of this negative talk, you can begin to chip away at your Imposter Syndrome.

9) Stop comparing your experience of yourself to the way you see everyone else.

It is so easy to look at the people around us and feel like they have it all together. They look calm and confident and capable, and everything seems like it comes easily to them. I can tell you with complete confidence that the people you are comparing yourself to have challenges and question themselves just like you do. They’re just not telling you about it.

When you notice yourself comparing yourself to someone else, take a quick moment to question the validity of your comparison. You don’t have to stop immediately (that takes some time and effort) but just gently wondering if your perception might be distorted will start to do the trick.

8) Allow yourself to question if everyone is really expecting the level of performance from you that you expect from yourself.

When you notice yourself putting the pressure on yourself to do the same level of performance as last time or to blow everyone out of the water again with whatever project it is that you are currently working on, take a moment to question who it is that expects that level of performance from you every time. My guess is that when you really sit down to think about it, you’ll realize it’s only you who expects you to be so good. Everyone else gets that you’re human.

This is an important step in order to start recognizing that your Imposter Syndrome is internally created and internally driven. You can’t lie to yourself anymore and say that everyone in your life just needs you to be perfect, because this is way more about how you perceive yourself than it is about how anyone else sees you.

7) Define “good enough”

Often people will tell me that they’ll quit being so hard on themselves once they are able to get to that magical place called “good enough”. I have never met anyone who has actually visited this mystical land. You know why? Because it’s a moving target.

If you sit down and actually try to define what “good enough” would be, you are going to start recognizing how impossible your standards for yourself are.

6) Schedule time for self care

I know. There are too many important things to do before you do that. I know. It feels like a waste of time, or you’ll do that after. But after what? I am willing to bet that you have said that to yourself before, and then something else came up.

It’s a trap! You have to take care of yourself now. This is when your life is. And I’ve said it before and you’ll hear me say it over and over again, your productivity will actually go up if you take care of yourself. I don’t like appealing to your inner perfectionist, but I’ll do whatever works!

5) Schedule time with friends and family.

This is not very different from scheduling time for self care, but I list it separately because it’s a different kind of important. Nurturing your relationships is not only good for you now and in the long run, but it will help you have fewer regrets when you get older. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen.

Your kids are only this big for so long. Your friend’s lives are changing, too. They matter to you, and part of having a good work/life balance is making sure you get to be a part of the things that matter to you, regardless of anything else that may be going on.

4) Set your priorities

If you can sit down and really identify what is important to you, you can use your time more effectively and work towards giving yourself a pass when you don’t give it 100% in an area that doesn’t mean as much to you. You cannot give 100% in every aspect of your life. Something has to give and something will slip through the cracks. This is a really common problem I see, is people want to do exceptionally well in every aspect of their lives, and then the spread themselves so thin that they lose sight of what is really important to them and the things that really matter fall through.

That is not an encouraging experience. Take a moment. Write a list. Figure out what is most important to you, only one or two things. Then go after those things. It will feel more manageable and more possible right at the outset.

3) Talk more about your feelings

Especially to people you trust, who love you. Life is hard, and it’s even harder when we’re trying to do it alone. Talking about your feelings with people you trust can not only help you feel less alone, it can be really good for the people in your life to see that you’re human, too. Remember what we said about comparing ourselves to what we see in other people? Think what you’re showing your kids. Do they know that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes, or are you teaching them that they are supposed to be stoic? Food for thought.

2) Practice mindfulness and relaxation exercises

I’m not going to bullshit you and say that moving through your Imposter Syndrome is always going to feel good. It’s not. The end result is worth it, but that doesn’t mean that not giving in to the compulsions to do more and do it better and make sure that you did it “well enough” is going to be comfortable. It’s going to be anxiety producing and you might even feel guilty for not “trying hard enough”.

Those mindfulness and relaxation skills are really going to come in handy to help you be strong enough to get through those moments without giving in to the temptation to just try harder.

1) Remember, you are not as good at fooling everyone as you’re giving yourself credit for.

I love this one. It’s probably my favorite, because it’s so obvious but none of us seems to think about it. If you feel like a fraud all the time, who is just masking his true ineptitude and shame, doesn’t that mean that everyone around you has been pulled into this sham? But there are people you love and respect who spend quite a bit of time with you, aren’t there? So even though they think you are awesome and smart and capable, you still think you’re just faking them out.

Something’s not adding up. Either the people you like and respect are easily made fools of, and they’re not as cool as you think, or you’re not as good at pretending as you think you are. Which one is true is for you to decide, but think on it.

Learning to keep your Imposter Syndrome in check can be liberating. You can absolutely learn to feel calm and confident. I can help you get there by implementing these skills, and taking it further by learning where the Imposter Syndrome is coming from and healing that.

Call me now at 888-242-9345 to schedule a free consult.