Why is it so hard for some people to set healthy boundaries? Are they afraid to hurt others' feelings or be perceived differently? We can easily be stuck in a bad situation when we don't have boundaries. Often people agree to things that are outside their comfort zone in order to maintain external peace and harmony, only to feel turmoil and conflict inside. Our strong desire to please others and put others' needs ahead of our own over time results in anger, hurt, and eventually resentment. It might also lead to manipulation by others. Sometimes we anticipate a bad reaction from others even when there is no validity to our assumption. A desire for love and acceptance is very powerful and if we didn't receive it as children then it's easy to understand why we try so hard to prove our worthiness as adults. Unfortunately we can get stuck in a pattern of doing for others while neglecting ourselves.
In some cases, we are convinced that helping others will benefit both of us. We want to offer guidance, support, and encouragement, but it can be difficult to determine when our "help" becomes codependence. When we find ourselves taking responsibility for others' choices and decisions then that's when our behavior would be considered unhealthy. Certainly there is a fine line between loving and supporting someone and trying harder than they are to make a change. You may invest a significant amount of time and energy into this effort and assume that the person you are looking to help will be grateful and appreciative. Often you are surprised by the lack of gratefulness or acknowledgement while the recipient instead justifies and rationalizes their behaviors. We can easily be taken advantage of or manipulated by someone who recognizes our desire to help, fix, or rescue others. Though finding purpose in helping others is commendable, you should not believe that you alone can save someone from making bad choices in life.
So how do healthy boundaries lead to freedom? Often our ability to say no or set limits with others allows us to be true to ourselves and not feel trapped in accommodating others. When we set boundaries we maintain self-respect and don't feel compelled to please others at our own expense. In essence we keep our options open and can decide our best course of action without trying to make everyone happy. When we agree to something that we really don't want to do, we give up our power. On the other hand, carefully considering the best response to a situation often empowers us to help others without being motivated by guilt or fear. The bottom line is that boundaries keep us from getting caught in the middle of others' conflicts and problems and allow us to take care of ourselves and others in a healthier manner. Lastly, boundaries create opportunities for others to take ownership of their own conflicts and enable the relationship to be based on want not need.