Why A Lack Of Boundaries Can Be Painful and Messy


Guilt Trips and Manipulation

The reason we can feel angry at other people sometimes can be because we have not set good boundaries with them. We are not angry at them, but with ourselves. Boundaries for people-pleasers can be a real challenge, especially if you have lived most of your life trying to please other people or from an early age you were led to believe you were responsible for a parent or caregiver’s wellbeing or happiness.

I always felt like the black sheep, the outsider in my family until I reached my early forties and started to accept who I was and acknowledged my own needs. At that time, I began to let go of my attachment to needing my family to love me or to notice I existed, but prior to this I tried so hard to be noticed.

One thing I did for a very long time was to over-give. I over-gave to my mother primarily, because as a child I had been led to believe that I was responsible for her happiness and I carried this on through into my adult years. I gave by lavishing gifts on her, or when I visited, I would pay for everything, which I didn’t mind so much because it made my visit more enjoyable, but the misplaced responsibility led to loaning her money, which felt good sometimes, but at other times it felt like I was trying to please her or get her to like me.

I did discover that often her perception and love of me wavered depending on how much I was giving. If I was not able and somebody else gave to her for a time, suddenly they were ‘number one’ in her books. She has been a very conditional mother, but I have learned to accept her as she is.

People-Pleasing and Guilt

money debt

The guilt that comes from starting to set boundaries for a parent after a very long time pleasing them can be strong and very powerful. The guilt I felt has lessened over time and now it feels almost non-existent. I started to say ‘No’; I started to set boundaries, but the biggest challenge for boundary setting has come when my mum was recently diagnosed with cancer.

As any daughter or son would, when a parent has such a serious health issue, we try to help them out, to soothe and comfort them and I did. I spent two months with her caring for her after her initial operations, but the boundary setting became clearer when she kept asking to borrow money from me, several times, not long after I had spent a large sum of money on my last visit.

I know why she asked me. I had bailed her out many times when I felt it was needed, but as she moves towards her first chemotherapy session this week the requests have come in again for money. I have had to say ‘No’. It is very hard to say ‘No’ at a time like this, but I had to.

Boundaries Are Love

Boundaries are not just harsh walls we put up to protect who we are, but they are also loving boundaries. They say who we are, but also who we are not.

With young children for example, boundaries are very important. If we don’t set boundaries, they can be put in danger. Boundaries give children a sense of safety, knowing their primary caregiver is taking good care of them. Not being given boundaries can make a child wobbly and feel unsafe. I was not given boundaries until my sister was born when I turned 13 and I never felt safe in the world as a result, until recently.

So while it may not seem that way to my adult mother, I know that for my highest good and hers, this needs to take place.

Self-Care is Your Priority

self-care with boundary setting

If we give money, time or energy to someone because we feel guilty, we are not coming from a grounded healthy place. The first thing we need to do is take care of ourselves and our immediate family. If you have children or a husband/wife, make sure those needs are met before even considering giving to another.

If you are just getting by, lacking in energy or time, don’t give, even if it feels painful. Breathe into the guilt feeling and know that you have nothing to feel guilty about. It is not your responsibility to care for another or give to another of your money, time or energy.

Is Your Giving Enabling Poor Behaviour?

I know that my giving in terms of money has enabled her poor behaviour and has stopped her learning how to take care of herself and manage her own finances.

“Effectively, when someone’s misbehaving with money and you keep throwing money at them, you’re enabling the bad behavior. You’re causing the bad behavior.” ~ Dave Ramsey

The same way we wouldn’t give cocaine to a drug addict. Giving because of guilt when we are depleted, be it financially, emotionally or physically is wasted energy. We are not helping the other person. We are also not obligated by birth to help our parents. We can choose to give from a ‘whole’ place, but never from a place of imbalance.

And think about it this way. If we have no boundaries with certain people in our lives and we suddenly put boundaries down and they disappear, get angry and blame us, then this says a lot about those relationships. Do we really want people in our lives who do this, be they friends, family or acquaintances?

Sometimes we just need to be prepared for messy shit to happen in the meantime while we establish boundaries. Saying ‘No’ is important because the more we say ‘No’, the more life gives us opportunities to say a positive ‘Yes’ to.

We must decide where our boundaries need to be and how to install them.

Kelly Martin
Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin, author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ is a dedicated writer and blogger who fearlessly explores life’s deepest questions. Faced with a decade of profound anxiety and grief following the loss of her father and her best friend Michael, Kelly embarked on a transformative journey guided by mindfulness, and she hasn’t looked back since. Through her insightful writing, engaging podcasts, and inspiring You Tube channel Kelly empowers others to unearth the hidden treasures within their pain, embracing the profound truth that they are ‘enough’ exactly as they are.

Find me on: Web | Twitter/X | Instagram | Facebook

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.