Relearning emotional boundaries as an adult.
A long winded almost review of Unf*ck Your Boundaries book.
Content warning: mentions of childhood abuse.
I write this knowing my mother might one-day read this post. It’s a terrifying thought. Frankly, every post is written this way – it’s why there’s a lot of self-censorship on this blog, but I feel like I’m getting a lot better at giving less of a fuck. Nothing has changed with her, her behaviours are still the same, however mine have changed – for the better.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a long sordid tale about what happened, but an essay on how I’ve learnt to recognise, and regain my boundaries. However, to write this post there has to be some back story.
The catalyst for this post: Unf*ck Your Boundaries
The other day I received ‘Unf*ck Your Boundaries’ by Dr Faith G. Harper, a Kickstarter project from Microcosm Publishing. The ‘Unf*ck’ series of books is absolutely brilliant, and I highly recommend checking the out. They break down topics into easily digestible chunks, bullet points, and awesome graphics. So, depending on your reading style you can still take in the information.
Between online resources, books, and my new therapist I have – over the past few years, come to realise that I’ve been a boundary stomper. It has never been intentional, and it is completely on me, but I want to dive into the reasons why. I want to talk about it because we don’t get taught about boundaries in school (though we definitely should), and if we don’t start with healthy boundary examples … we’re a bit fucked.
Like any other adult trait, the genesis begins in childhood. My childhood was a real mix, there were a handful of good bits, but for the most part a lot of bad bits. I can now acknowledge that my childhood was very damaging, and I am still unravelling a lot of what it’s done to me, and I think I will be for quite some time.
Over past few years I’ve developed the self-awareness, and emotional intelligence to see where the bad habits I learnt as a child have leached into my past and caused problems. I’ve done a lot of looking back, so I can look forwards.
I will say right now that I messed up with some people. I learnt about physical boundaries very early on out of necessity, but I fucked up with the emotional boundaries. I didn’t know what they were, and that’s down to how I was brought up, though that definitely doesn’t excuse my past behaviour. This has been really brought to my attention with the recent tweet – the ‘are you in the right headspace to receive this information’ tweet. I don’t want to get too side-tracked, but I think as a society moving more towards this is amazing. Additionally, as someone with chronic illness I am constantly tired and if people were to ask me if I can take on extra mental work – it would save me a lot of mental stress. I think those that mock either don’t understand or just don’t want to understand why asking before unloading can be a good thing.
Anyway, all this is to say that I now understand why unloading my emotions onto someone isn’t healthy – friends are not therapists, and they shouldn’t have to be. I did, thankfully, know back then to check in before talking about the heavier topics, but even then, I didn’t have the awareness to trust their judgement. There were some other things going on, but I think ultimately this lack of awareness cost me a friendship.
Where did it all begin?
I’m going to be glossing over the last 5 years or so in this section.
For as long as I can remember my boundaries have been ignored.
When I was younger, I never felt safe or secure in the house I grew up in, and I had to expect that whatever boundary I tried to put up would get pulverised. After a few years of consciously trying to put up what I now know to be emotional boundaries, I gave up.
There was no personal space, no age appropriate knowledge, there was just everything. Looking back, I was my mother’s therapist, confident, partner, and friend at the age of 10 – maybe younger. I knew a lot about everything, and now I know that was wrong. Now I know it wasn’t just a ‘close relationship’, but a complete lack of boundaries. However, when I look at my partner’s family, it’s a stark contrast to my own – for the better.
When I was a kid my life was completely my mothers. That meant she could walk in any time, and I would always available to her. Honestly, she still expects that to this day. This boundary smashing continued (and still continues) to this day. My late teens and early 20s were an experimentation in setting boundaries, trying to get people to respect them, and learning that other people have different boundaries to me. I’m ashamed of some of the things I did back then, and angry with myself for not realising I was crossing their boundaries. It never crossed my mind, because I’d never had the boundary talk, and hadn’t had the experience of my own boundaries being met and respected.
Are there other factors at play in some of my past relationships? Certainly. It’s life, and life is complicated. Were my boundaries crossed in some of these relationships? Definitely. But that doesn’t negate the hurt I caused. None of this is an excuse, but more a belated realisation and heartfelt apology.
What’s relevant is the hurt I unwittingly caused to people whose boundaries I crossed, and now I know I did cross them. If you are someone who’s boundaries I crossed and did not respect, then I sincerely apologise. It was wrong of me, and I am truly sorry.
I know that I have grown massively over the past seven years, since I became a fully independent adult. Every year I feel like I have gone from strength to strength (though not physical strength that’s been going the opposite way). That’s not something I admit lightly. I’ve been working on myself ever since I realised that I have unhealthy habits, and other issues that need addressing. Honestly, my partner helped me to realise a lot of these bad habits, and he gave me a good baseline for what is ‘relatively normal’, because I don’t know.
I feel like I’m having to relearn everything as an adult. Having no healthy, and appropriate boundaries has messed me up in a lot of ways, and lead to disastrous result in some of my early relationships. However, as an adult I have learnt what emotional boundaries are, and I have no doubt that I will continue to learn what different types of boundaries are as I try to understand behaviours of my past.
Whilst 2019 feels like a massive dumpster fire of a year, I can’t ignore the progress that I’ve made, and if you will excuse a little moment of happy British self-awareness, I am proud of that.
If you are reading this post, and you’ve can relate then there is hope that boundaries can on day become less complicated for you, and I highly recommend Unf*ck Your Boundaries as a good starting point.
This post isn’t sponsored, and nor is it a review of the book Unf*ck Your Boundaries. Honestly, I’d like to do more book reviews and definitely of the Unf*ck series, but it did heavily inspire this post – in a positive way.
I brought Unf*ck Your Boundaries with my own money (thanks Kickstarter!), and if you’d like to get your own you can purchase it here.