Toronto, where I live, has been experiencing heavy fog for a couple of days. We live on the 20th floor of our building, so whenever it’s foggy we can’t even see across the street. My partner & I joke that it looks like a zombie apocalypse out there. What does this have to do with boundaries? Stay with me…

When it’s foggy, of course, it’s harder to see things clearly. Our boundaries can be like that too. When they’re foggy or unclear, it makes for more conflict and confusion. Foggy boundaries can make you feel a little lost at sea. The lack of clarity results in a sort of blending, where it may not be obvious where we end and others begin.

Do you have foggy boundaries? Here are 6 tell-tale signs that it’s an issue:

You avoid conflict at all costs.

Conflict sucks. No two ways about it. It’s no wonder you want to avoid it. Between dealing with the other person’s feelings as well as your own discomfort, it doesn’t sound like much fun. But think about what it’s costing you. Let’s be real – the conflict is there already. You’re just trying to hold it all in and take one for the team. And when we do that for a long time, it starts to come out sideways. (See point #3). And that’s no fun for anyone.

You don’t feel like you have much choice about how you spend your time & energy.

When you’re in the habit of taking care of everyone and everything, it can start to feel like you don’t have a choice. You’re the one who takes care of All The Things, and if you don’t do it…well, nobody will. And that doesn’t feel like an option, so you suck it up and make it happen, and the cycle continues. Try zooming out for a moment and consider that you are, in fact, making a choice. And there are reasons for it. For instance, you might be sucking it up to avoid conflict. That’s a choice. You might feel compelled to keep up the image of being reliable and responsible. That’s a choice. This is not about blame or shame. It’s about noticing that you’re making a choice for a reason. That’s much more empowering than thinking that you don’t have one.

You often feel taken advantage of, and that’s leading to irritation, anger or resentment.

You wish they could see how much of a toll this is all taking on you. Can’t someone just step up so you can take a break? It’s not rocket science – things are obviously getting done, you’re always on the go, and you seldom have time to relax. Why don’t they do the right thing and help you out? It seems pretty obvious, so it’s no wonder you’re annoyed. But still, you’re trying to suck it up, so you keep up with your commitments. But a funny thing is happening. You’re starting to get really annoyed about stuff that doesn’t actually seem like such a big deal. Your anger is coming out sideways. Anger asks us to protect or restore our boundaries. To make things right. So if you’re feeling angry a lot, it’s time to look at where you’re not honouring your needs & desires.

You talk yourself out of your needs.

Speaking of needs and desires, you might be talking yourself out of yours as a way to cope with the fact that you can’t really see a way out. It’s easier to convince yourself that you’re fine than it is to figure out how to change the dynamic. So if the voice in your head is telling you that you shouldn’t complain, that’s it’s not a big deal, and other people have it much worse, your boundaries may need tending.

Check out this pep-talk to remind yourself that your needs matter.

You feel guilty for saying “no.”

This is a biggie. When you find it difficult to say “no” without feeling guilty, you’ll find that your time and energy is spent doing SO MANY THINGS that you don’t want to be doing. You’ll be drained, depleted, and disconnected. Whether you feel responsible for other people’s feelings, or you simply don’t want to deal with conflict, making decisions in order to avoid feeling guilty is very disempowering. You can absolutely learn the skills you need to grow through this rather than continuing to suck it up. You can learn new language that feels both kind and authentic. You can develop the capacity to be present with discomfort when it’s important to do the hard thing. You can find the clarity and courage to make intentional decisions about how you’re living. You deserve that freedom.

You put everyone else first, and try to fit your stuff in with the time and energy that’s leftover (which means it often doesn’t happen).

I used to do this ALL THE TIME. I would mentally keep the stuff I wanted to do on the back burner, never putting anything in the calendar until I was sure nobody would need me at that particular time. It’s easy to believe that we can do our stuff later. We can take care of ourselves later. But if later hasn’t happened in quite some time, you’re probably starting to notice the fallout. Your ability to manage stress might be waning. You may feel more tired & irritable than usual. Your health may be paying the price. Your dreams may be collecting dust as it starts to feel like the way you support others defines you.

You are built for more than putting out fires and cleaning up other people’s messes. Your needs matter. Your desires are divine. 

Can you relate to any of these six signs? Comment below and let me know which one resonates with you. After all, awareness is the first step in every transformation.