In this episode, I discuss the difference between boundaries and walls, why people build walls instead of boundaries, and how to convert a wall to a boundary. Boundaries keep us safe and protected by keeping us open and flexible depending on who we are interacting with. Walls are up for everyone and keep the hurt we are trying to protect ourselves from locked in with us.Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/mentalfitness)
Boundaries vs walls
I’ve had multiple people connect with me both through my website and through social media asking me the difference between boundaries and walls. Specifically, how to establish and hold boundaries and how to knock down walls. I want to mention again and encourage you to feel free to communicate with me through my website, my community, or on Instagram.
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So, let’s get into setting boundaries and knocking down walls.
Regarding boundaries and walls:
One is helpful the other hinders
One empowers and the other is about shutting down
One protects while the other isolates. – even though isolation is not the intention – protection is.
One protects and the other destroys
People who are loving and giving need to set boundaries because takers are never going to, they will take as long as you are giving!
And when givers are people pleasers they don’t know when to stop, Or they are incapable of stopping.
I want to talk about boundaries first. Boundaries can be tricky because once built, you need to uphold them, but how you uphold them varies from person to person where a wall is up for everyone all the time, that’s easier at least it appears easier.
With boundaries, the general rule is You should never set a boundary you don’t intend to keep. Setting them and then getting persuaded to ignore them is not the goal and it reveals your weakness and lack of self-confidence. It shows you are not strong enough to stand up to bullying and/or manipulation.
People will learn this and prey on it. However, boundaries need to be flexible, but the flexibility is always at your discretion, not the bully’s or the manipulator’s. Disregarding your boundaries puts you in a submissive position that can lead to regret or resentment. Even worse it can cause you to be disappointed in yourself or taken advantage of.
Keep in mind that some boundaries should not be flexible, some you need to uphold at any cost. But you do need to take the time once in a while to evaluate their necessity, Are they still needed? Do they still need to be held firm or can this particular one start to become more flexible or be eliminated completely?
That’s the beauty of boundaries, they are not one size fits all and the flexibility is fully in your control. The ability to accommodate change and shift your position based on circumstance and who you are dealing with, your level of trust with them is essential.
A key element in the establishment and upholding of boundaries vs walls is to learn to be in a continuous state of curiosity, exploration, and compassion.
Meaning when someone says something to you or does something to you and your initial reaction is to be hurt or insulted. And now you want to lash out at them. Instead, use curiosity, exploration, and compassion, and take a second to try and see they are coming from, try to see the situation and circumstance from their point of view.
Can you see why they said what they said or did what they did now? Why you stop looking at everything from your point of view you are able to accept what others are doing and saying with understanding, Whether you like what they are doing or saying or not.
Think about the filters in your brain, did you take what they just said to you and filter it through your baggage and your life circumstances and possibly change the meaning and intent of what they said?
When you don’t pay attention to how they might be seeing things and you don’t pay attention to the filters you are processing through, you most likely will take things that are done and said personally and as a result, start building walls.
Boundaries are more about setting and communicating expectations, having your wants and needs out there, and communicating in a healthy way to ensure you feel safe and comfortable.
Walls are more about keeping your expectations, wants, and needs to yourself because you feel if you express them and make them known they will be used against you or used to hurt you. Or worst yet, you believe someone won’t like you or love you because of them.
Boundaries protect us from people who might hurt us and from us from trusting people too soon, this ensures we keep people who are untrustworthy from knowing the intimate parts of us parts they might later use against us.
Boundaries also stop us from being taken advantage of more importantly it stops us from being enablers to the people in our life who might need to stop being rescued all the time this is important for them to grow or perhaps they need to make serious changes for a healthier life – this can be especially difficult when you are dealing with people with addiction or mental illness.
But there is a time and place to help the people in our lives and a time and place where we need to give them the space to help themselves.
Boundaries help make this possible, but it can be very difficult to uphold them when you are in the moment. When you know someone is struggling or hurting. We also need boundaries to help us make sure our internal filter is turned on… meaning we have a better handle on controlling ourselves and we don’t say all the things we want to say when we want to say them.
They help us keep some things to ourselves they help us with appropriateness and time and place. We need to practice self-awareness to know the behaviors and treatment from others we are no longer going to tolerate, and we need to be able to effectively communicate them.
If they do not comply, then the next boundary should be to distance yourself from them – keeping the door open to welcome them back if and when they behave in a more loving appropriate manner.
Remember to not be an active participant in your own abuse.
Boundaries make sure that doesn’t happen. Having strong healthy boundaries help us feel confident and secure when we say “no’ to people. The need to say “yes” all the time and the instinct of the people pleaser doesn’t exist when boundaries are established and upheld. When you can’t say no this is a good indicator and sign to others that you have weak boundaries or no boundaries at all.
Boundaries make the future desirable because it provides the safety and security to create a level of protection that ensures the things you have processed from your past don’t happen to you again.
That the gift or lesson you learned from that experience is honored because you are protecting yourself in a healthy way.
Boundaries allow for the passage of and exchanging of information in a healthy way. How much you want to exchange is adjusted based on the person you are communicating with or interacting with and your level of trust with them.
Boundaries expect and rely on the exchange of information with others. Boundaries grow out of taking responsibility. As well as the willingness and vulnerability to process what we have been through to move out of guilt, fear, anger, really any of the difficult emotions.
Walls are also constructed of these emotions but processing the people or events that hurt us is never done.
Boundaries are a form of self-love and self-respect, they keep us protected while keeping us open-minded.
People are allowed into your life in varying degrees and levels of appropriateness depending on who they are and the level of trust that has been established in the relationship.
Boundaries allow for new beginnings to occur all the time.
Processing, forgiveness, letting go, and moving on exists when we have boundaries.
So with boundaries, what you are willing to tolerate and from whom is determined and upheld, you might tolerate more from one person than another in any given circumstance based on the criteria of that particular boundary and the relationship and level of trust with that person.
Boundaries are constructed of truth, integrity, self-assuredness.
This is who I am right now, this is what I will tolerate, this is where awareness and self-respect come together to keep me protected. So walls…Walls are built out of fear, guilt, shame, anger, hurt, all the difficult emotions we experience in life.
Just like boundaries, however, here the solution is not a healthy one. We think walls protect us, but in reality, they isolate us.
And my question to that is always, protect you from what? The person who hurt you and is no longer in your life? You’re already protected from that, they are gone.
The irony is when you build walls, what you are trying to protect yourself from, you are actually guaranteeing it lives with you forever, stuck behind those walls with you.
Walls might seem easier, they are a one and done thing, building them keeps everyone out, done! But behind the walls stands a person not processing and learning from the circumstances in their lives, behind that wall stands someone not taking responsibility for their contribution to events and interactions with people.
Instead, the walls are built and the past controls everything that happens from here on out. What will actually protect you from whatever happened to you not happening again is processing it, learning the lesson, or finding the gift from what happened will prevent it from happening again, building walls just creates more issues.
We all want to be loved unconditionally by the people in our lives, by no one can love us unconditionally for who we are if we don’t let them in and let them get to know the real us. And no one can know us completely if we are hiding behind walls keeping everyone at a distance. We cannot be loved for who we are if who we are is locked away.
But the most important component of this and the most self-destructive element of walls and holding things in is, the part you are holding back, the piece of you you’re not letting people see, chances are they are the very part of you they need to be able to love you completely and unconditionally.
You might have someone you love greatly leave your life because you were too scared to show them was what they needed for them to stay. Back here behind these walls, you are actually holding onto old hurts that someone else inflicted on you. Something happened and you swore you would never let that happen to you again.
However, that room you have locked yourself into with your walls, you aren’t alone in there, you are in there with the people who caused those wounds. When you give them and what they did to you that power, you keep them alive and well and living smack dab in the middle of your life, controlling everything you do. You keep them and their power over you alive.
Your walls have built a box with you and those who hurt you standing in there together, you invited them to stay with you - while the people who are trying to love you for you – scars flaws and all are stuck on the outside being disregarded and held at a distance, only seeing a façade of you.
They are being punished for something they didn’t do. They are suffering the consequences of other people’s behavior. How much do you like being accused or punished for something someone else did? Take some time to examine who you are trying to fool because the people in your life can feel you are at a distance or shutting them out. That doesn’t feel good and as a result, they hold back from you. And eventually, they leave.
Perhaps you are trying to fool yourself, convince yourself you’re fine. They pretend – I’ll just show them what I want them to see – or worse, I will only show them what I think they want to see, can only last so long… we can only pretend so long.
An important thing to remember is, just because time has passed it doesn’t mean the wound has healed, with walls up you keep the wound fresh and if you never process it, it will never heal.
The walls protect the people that hurt you or the event that hurt you it doesn’t hold you safely until time heals everything… this doesn’t happen, you are not protected, and time is not helping you.
Walls are rigid and firm, they are holding you in and everyone, except the bad guys out, you are alone and isolated. They are intended to protect, but ultimately, they hurt because no one can get close to you. Therefore no one can truly know you, and as a result, you have no one you can be fully yourself with and as a result, no one to love you unconditionally for who you are. This results in loneliness even when you are not alone, and it keeps you in a continual state of being deprived of being loved.
Walls confine you to the past, something that can’t be changed and something that should have been processed and let go of, not something you are carrying with you and constructing permanent structures to stop you from living a full life.
Walls are made with loneliness and isolation as their building blocks, they invite those who hurt you to live in there with you. Walls block the healthy exchange of information because assumptions and predetermined intentions are already established. Walls are part of self-loathing and the fear that people will find out who you really are, the thought process is that walls provided the distance needed for people to not see you.
Walls are simply barriers between everyone else in the world and you and the secrets you’re trying to keep hidden. This makes them more monumental when in reality your secret is probably not unique.
Walls keep warmth, love, and growth out and keep unhealthiness in. The walls prevent you from being able to see or reach your full potential because your focus remains on the past. Now that the difference between boundaries and walls is clear, I want to talk about why people build walls instead of boundaries in the first place. People who build walls are stuck in survival mode.
Somewhere along the way they were severely hurt or neglected. Usually, they don’t have the tools to build and uphold boundaries, in most cases, they don’t have the mental capacity or self-confidence to know the difference between walls and boundaries.
As a general rule, they don’t trust anyone. They’ve been conditioned that way by their interpretation of life circumstances or their upbringing. They believe people who tell you what you want to hear are either lying or trying to manipulate you. People who are not telling you what you want to hear are against you and trying to hurt you.
Somewhere along the way, you were trusting and vulnerable, you were caring and open and loving. We all are as children. You believed, forgave and you gave multiple chances, but you got hurt anyway, perhaps devastated, heartbroken, taken advantage of, used or even abused, mentally physically, or emotionally.
Whatever it was, it was enough to cause you to shut down and shut everyone out. It’s easier to keep people out and watch them walk away than it is to let them in and risk feeling the hurt of what happened in the past happening again.
Everything is temporary, even long-term relationships are seen as temporary, they can end at any time, there is a lack of engagement and lack of trying, there is nothing really to fight for since it is assumed nothing is going to work out anyway.
People who build walls convince themselves that it's safer this way. They grow numb to the everyday hurt they are inflicting on themselves behind these so-called walls of protection. They believe they are now protected from heartbreak and disappointment, but instead, they are actually living with heartbreak and disappointment every day.
The good news here is you can covert a wall into a boundary. But first, you need awareness, then you need to process and understand the event or interaction that took place and built that wall in the first place...
So here are six steps in setting boundaries
1. Prioritize your happiness and wellbeing, then those around you will reap the benefits, when you are truly safe and happy the people around you will feel that.
2. Say no when you want to say no. Don’t feel the need to explain yourself – unless you want to. Whether you explain yourself or not, be respectful of the person asking. Integrity should always be upheld.
Resist struggling with saying no or replying you will think about it. No one wants to be led on or be in a state of limbo waiting for you to get back to them.
You might be preventing them from continuing to plan or do something they need to do because they are waiting on you. Other people’s time is just as important as yours. Don’t be afraid that saying no will mean they don’t like you, if that is what it takes for someone not to like you, then who needs them.
3. Do not ask people permission or ask if the decision you made about something is “okay”. State your decision confidently and don’t be influenced by what people say after you have spoken, bullying and manipulation is never a reason to let go of your boundaries.
4. Don’t feel the need to accommodate toxic people. Do what you need to do to protect yourself especially from people who you are unsure of what they are capable of, or you do not feel safe around. And I mean safe physically, mentally, or emotionally. You control how much or how little you interact with or share with others.
5. Speak up, when someone does or says something that hurts you or crosses a boundary, let them know. The clear and confident way you communicate your boundaries and set expectations are essential – this means do not participate in events or conversations you do not want to. State your boundary and either the situation or conversation changes, or you get up and leave and everyone understands why you left.
6. Respect other people’s boundaries and don’t be the person trying to manipulate them or bully them into ignoring their boundaries. We all have different boundaries so don’t think someone else’s is less important than yours.
To wrap this up,
Processing our past and setting boundaries is a badge of courage.
Walls represent weakness and lack of ability to work through life’s circumstances in a healthy way.
Boundaries create the space for positive outcomes, here there is the possibility of unlimited potential. While walls prohibit positive outcomes and leave you dwelling in the unprocessed hurt of the past.
Your boundaries are no one else’s business, some people will not like the boundaries you have set and will try to manipulate ridicule you, or bully you to get you to change them… That is when you know they are working, but the test is, how strong are you and how well do you uphold them? It is most effective when you communicate that you have a boundary, set expectations so people are aware.
But, It’s up to you to communicate why that is your boundary, you can have both boundaries and walls. Where you have walls is an indicator that you need to process whatever event caused you to construct this wall so you can convert the wall to a boundary.
Boundaries create secure authentic safety.
It seeks out and welcomes the assistance of others when you’re struggling or feeling broken.
It encourages and thrives in connecting with others.
Walls do not provide the safety we think it does.
Plus, they can become so large that we become emotionally crippled and allow victimization and martyrdom to be prominent character traits.
The people who think they are safely protected by their walls do not realize that they are not fooling anyone, people can feel their distance and hold back. They are ultimately, shining a light on the very things they want to hide.
Be okay with people not liking your boundaries, it is not your job to make them happy.
Your comfort level and happiness level should be your priority, not theirs. Stand firm when you communicate a boundary if you want to explain the reason behind the boundary that is up to you. If they don’t understand your boundary that is not your problem. You will learn a lot about the people in your life and what they think of you when you start communicating your boundaries, but even more so when they see you mean them and are committed to upholding them.
When someone is angry about your boundary it just reinforces that you are doing the right thing by having that boundary and enforcing it. When people think you are mean for holding your boundaries, then you know you are interacting with the very person you created the boundary to protect yourself from.
There may also be a point where they start treating you with disrespect, holding firm and seeing them for who they are is essential.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Identify and Conquer. If you want to explore boundaries more or work on shifting your walls to boundaries, we can do that work together. Connect with me.
My name is Wendy Pilcher and I work with people who are looking for a methodology that will help them process information better leading to a more peaceful, fulfilling life without limiting belief and insecurities being in control. If you’re tired of stress, anxiety, depression, overthinking, or any other difficult or negative forces we can experience as humans controlling you.
Connect with me…
You can get in touch with me on my website identifyandconquer.com on my community at changing my brain.com or on Instagram @identify and conquer