As a recovering people-pleaser, I had to learn and re-learn what it meant and what it felt like to have healthy boundaries. Let me tell you, if you're used to feeling good or even being praised because you sacrificed your needs for someone else's, setting healthy boundaries does not feel good. What happens to those of us who don't know how to set healthy boundaries is we end up drained, depleted, not being respected, and feeling like we can't really express our true desires or opinions. We end up as mere shadows of ourselves because we are not being who-we-really-are. We're used to being or doing whatever someone else wanted from us.
So what exactly do I mean by healthy boundaries?
What I mean is having the ability to feel safe and free around others. Being able to say yes to things you want to say yes to and no to things you don't want. Being able to stand up for yourself and express when something is just not OK. It's about being able to say, this is me, this is you, and this is how I'm happy playing with everyone in this world.
The opposite of healthy boundaries is codependency. It's the feeling like you're responsible for how someone else feels. It's feeling like you have to earn your love from others. It's perfectionism, it's lack of self-worth, it's giving in to guilt. It's not expressing your truth because you fear you will be abandoned by friends or loved ones. It's a complete violation of your soul.
What I want you to learn, more than anything, is that freedom and real love are a product of having healthy boundaries. It's giving to others not out of guilt, but out of pure joy. It's realizing that as you be who you truly are (as you be? Let's go with that! ;)), as you be who you truly are, the right people will be drawn to you, the "wrong" people will vibe out of your life, and none of it will bother you. Healthy boundaries is really about knowing and honoring YOU.
Here's an example.
You have a certain person in your life who always seems to come to you in a crisis (and boy do they get those constant crisis'!) You know who I'm talking about? They are constantly needing something from you, whether it's your time, your advice, or something more tangible. The first time, you felt good about helping out, it truly came from the heart and it was a great thing to do. Now, a pattern is starting to emerge and you are getting that kick in your gut whenever you see them coming around.
The person without healthy boundaries ignores that kick in the gut. They instead become compliant and eventually resentful of this person simply because they have the fear of saying, "no, I can't help you this time." What ends up happening is this pattern continues to repeat itself because, chances are, this friend either has no idea how much they are intruding on your space or they think it's really OK with you because, well, you haven't said anything. There is no boundary.
A person with healthy boundaries, who is getting the kick in the gut, recognizes this as spiritual guidance and instead confronts and establishes a boundary. You could tell this friend that you will not be able to help them this time. You may even recommend that they begin asking themselves why they are constantly attracting these crisis' (if it feels right), and allow yourself to feel good about listening to and honoring your Self.
It's not an easy thing to move from having no boundaries to begin establishing healthy ones, but it is totally empowering! It's nice to have time in your life for the things you love because you are no longer expending your energy towards things that just simply drain you. If this resonates with you, I recommend starting small. Saying no to things of little consequence to you. Maybe not doing things the way someone else wants you to do. Maybe saying no to a small dinner outing that you really don't want to go to. Maybe saying, "I respectfully disagree" to an opinion.
Start small and also make sure you establish a foundation with people whom you can trust to support you through this. As you begin setting boundaries, there will be some people that won't like it ((tough nuggets)). This is easier to handle when you have a good support system, coach, therapist, or mentor to help you understand and move through the emotions and fears that will come up for you during this transition.