Five Symptoms of Blurry Boundaries

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Boundaries with people are the hardest to set, and you may not even know yet if you have a problem. In her book, You Can Do This: Seizing the Confidence God Offers, author Tricia Williford looks at several things a confident girl does. In chapter 11, she prompts us to guard the use of our time, resources, and energy. Here are a few symptoms of common places where our boundaries get blurry:

1. Your relationships are difficult or overly dramatic.

When you struggle to set boundaries, you send a signal to other people that you cannot take care of yourself. This leaves you susceptible to relationships with people who want to control you, and control is only ever dramatic and manipulative. Healthy relationships exist between people who have a healthy and mutual give and take in their friendship.

2. You find it difficult to make decisions.

When you don’t have healthy boundaries in place, you spend a lot of time doing what other people want you to do. You don’t know what you want or don’t want, and you might not have a strong sense of who you are, what you like, and what matters most to you.

3. You really, really, really hate to let other people down.

We all like to maintain a positive score card in our relationships, so it’s nice when the people in your life are happy. But people without boundaries worry excessively about letting other people down, so they hate to say no. If you’ve ever been called a “people pleaser,” you might need to set some boundaries in your life.

4. You often feel guilt, fear, or anxiety.

People with boundary issues feel responsible if others are unhappy, and they feel guilty for small and insignificant things. They apologize often for things far beyond their control, and they carry a self-imposed responsibility for the world’s happiness.

5. You feel inexplicably tired for no reason.

Always doing what other people want you to do leaves little time for you to take care of yourself and your own needs. This pattern is flat out exhausting.
The confident girl (and guy, for that matter) loves herself (or himself) enough to set boundaries. Your time and your energy belong to you first, so you get to decide how to use them. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept. At first you will probably feel selfish, guilty, or embarrassed for setting a boundary. Do it anyway. Get out your Sharpie and draw a real thick line. (The color choice, of course, is up to you. But I’d highly recommend green. Or blue. Or red. Or a nice four-pack.)

Put boundary-setting into practice. (Your future self will thank you.)

Do you say yes to every seemingly worthwhile request, though you know you don’t have the time or energy to add it to your calendar? Think on this—anything from bringing a meal to a sick friend or babysitting for friends because their sitter canceled, or going to the Christmas party that you stopped enjoying a few years ago and now it’s just an annual holiday obligation. What would you like to say no to? What would take a load off your shoulders if you could just set the boundary? Say no to something today, and rest in the confidence that this one word is a complete sentence. When you say no to something good, you can say yes to something better.

Read Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It will change your life and set you free in all the best ways.

Tricia Lott Williford, author of You Can Do This: Seizing the Confidence God Offers, is a remarried widow, author of three books, writer, teacher, reader, and thinker. Thousands of people join her each morning for a cup of coffee as they sign online to read today’s funny, poignant stories that capture the fleeting moments of life. Tricia lives near Denver, Colorado, with her husband and two sons, and right this moment she is probably doodling in the margins of an overdue library book. You can get to know Tricia through her daily posts at

1 thought on “Five Symptoms of Blurry Boundaries”

  1. Tricia,
    Thanks so much for the article. It’s like you were talking to me. I have been having issues with setting boundaries for myself.
    Am trying and with God’s help, I know I can do it.

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