Adults with ADHD often struggle with boundaries; either with enforcing their boundaries or respecting other peoples’ boundaries or both. Boundaries are rules you set for yourself, based on your values and priorities.
Some boundaries are automatically in place without you having to be consciously aware of them. For example, if a stranger stands too close to you, you instinctively step away in order to create a physical space that you are comfortable with.
However, not all boundaries are that easy. Sometimes you don’t know what your boundaries are, so you can’t enforce them. Other times, you know a boundary has been crossed, but you need to develop your assertiveness or confidence muscle to be able to enforce it.
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Even if it feels uncomfortable at first, it’s worth strengthening your boundaries because healthy boundaries are vital for you to feel happy, be physically healthy, and have good relationships with everyone in your life.
Here is a list of areas where it’s important to have healthy boundaries:
- Physical space
- Physical body
The benefits of having clear strong boundaries are:
1) You feel happier
Because you are paying attention to your innate moral compass, and allowing that to guide you.
2) You have better relationships, at work and at home
Because you aren’t allowing people to cross your boundaries, there are no feelings of resentment. You like these people and feel respected.
3) You have increased energy
When you are constantly giving people more of your resources than you feel comfortable, your energy gets depleted. Having healthy boundaries means having a lot of physical and mental energy!
4) You have increased self-confidence
You trust yourself to look after your own needs.
5) You are more productive
Because you have clear time boundaries and because you have more energy (see #3).
6) You have greater self-respect
This is a nice side effect of other people respecting you and your increased confidence.
How do you know what a good boundary is?
The thing with boundaries is, they are very personal. The best way to know if one of your boundaries is being crossed is to notice how you feel in everyday situations. If you feel a negative emotion (like resentment or anger), a pit in your stomach, or resistance, then that is a sign your boundaries have been crossed.
For example: A friend asks to borrow your car. You don’t feel comfortable lending it, but say yes. Notice what happens.
Your inner voice might be shouting, ‘I hate it when they ask me things like this. Why do they always ask me?’
That is a clue!
Physical sensations in your body, such as: a sinking feeling, an ‘off’ sensation, or sense of dread.
Your emotions – You might feel taken advantage of, or angry.
Your behaviour –You might drag your feet in making things happen. e.g. You might procrastinate in meeting them to hand over your keys. Or you might arrive late, or lose your keys.
These are all signs your material boundary has been crossed.
In contrast, if a friend asked to borrow your car and you wanted to lend it to them, you might feel happy you could help out, feel pleased they asked you and even go out of the way to make sure they get your keys.
How to Create a Personal Boundary
When you start to create and enforce your boundaries, it means saying ‘no’ to people.
No I don’t want to do that/go there/lend you my car
No I don’t want to talk about that personal topic.
You are allowed to say no, and you don’t even have to give a reason! This can feel earth shattering if you are used to always saying yes or were raised to be accommodating and selfless.
If people aren’t use to you saying no, then they will often try to get you to change your mind.
Changing how you operate feels threatening to people because it forces them to change too. Remind them that you still love them, but that it’s still a no.
If you are a people pleaser, fear rejection or are co-dependent, then saying no can feel scary; not just a little bit scary, but a deep ‘I am not sure I will survive’.
If this is you, have a support team in place as you start to set your boundaries, perhaps a therapist, a coach, a 12 step program (there are 12 step programs for co-dependents) and supportive friends.
Are you good at knowing what your boundaries are? Leave a note in the comments below.