When we think about boundaries, we visualize an energy field or an imaginary line separating us from someone else. Boundaries basically help each person know where one thing ends and where another begins. Like Melody Beattie states in her book Beyond Codependency: “Unlike states on maps, we don’t have thick black lines delineating our borders. Yet, each of us has our own territory. Our boundaries define and contain that territory, our bodies, minds, emotions, spirit, possessions, and rights.” They create a separateness that allows you to have your own feelings, make your own decisions from an empowering space, and bravely ask for what you want without feeling the need to please others.
When there are no boundaries, people can take advantage because limits have not been set about how you expect to be treated. When this happens, the relationship with that person starts to feel unsafe and many hurtful events can unfold. These situations can happen in all kinds of relationships- with a lover, a family member, a coworker, even your kids.
None of us are born with boundaries. They are taught to us by our parents. Some are fortunate to be brought up into adulthood knowing who they are, knowing what they like and dislike, not trespassing others and not allowing others to invade them. They’ve created a very solid sense of self.
Others grew in environments where their own boundaries and rights were crossed or invaded. They may have weak or nonexistent boundaries if they were abandoned or neglected in some way, they were not nurtured or didn’t have appropriate limits and discipline. Inappropriate roles between family members, power plays, substance presence and abuse also make it hard for children to see healthy boundaries amongst adults. This makes creating a sense of self and a healthy self-esteem hard to form.