"I've been setting boundaries and losing a lot of people from my life. How can I know that I'm not just enacting my wounding and pushing people away?"
This question seems to be at the heart of a lot of hesitancy toward setting and holding boundaries.
If this is you, it's great that you understand that you are vulnerable to misinterpreting the people in your life, that you may have past hurts or old experiences skewing the way you relate. This means you can be on the lookout for when this might be happening.
BUT taking this understanding into your boundary setting won't do you much good.
Here are three reasons it doesn't matter whether you enact your boundaries out of wounding or clarity:
1. Your boundaries are for YOU.
Your boundaries are there to provide for your safety, your comfort, your pleasure, and your bliss. Boundaries ENABLE connection with others. These are all supremely subjective experiences. Only you can say if you're feeling these things, and any time you're not, you can use boundaries to choose a new experience for yourself.
It doesn't actually matter whether the person's behavior is ill-intended or well-intended.
It doesn't matter whether others think their behavior is reasonable.
It doesn't matter whether that person is "in the right," "doing their best," or themselves a victim of past wounding.
Your boundaries are about you and your experience, not about judging, condemning, or punishing others or their behaviors.
You have one life. One short and fleeting existence where you get to do exactly what you want to do. You get to decide how you want to spend your time and energy and where you want to distribute your attention.
You get to choose your experience. NO ONE is entitled to a position in your life.
2. Self-investigation is best done from a state of safety.
Boundaries are so much more than protection, but let's talk about how this works with boundaries of protection.
If you are feeling threatened, hurt, harmed, or unsafe in even the tiniest of ways, it's important for you to enact your boundaries to return to safety. Once you are safe (and only then) you will be able to clearly assess the situation to understand the contribution you were making as well as the contribution the other person was making.
You may find you were completely "unreasonable" but that doesn't matter, because in the moment when you needed the boundary, you showed YOURSELF that you have your own back by finding what felt safe to you.
It's really hard to return to being reasonable or resolve old wounding when you're panicking in a trigger or an experience of a threat.
3. Your boundaries are not an act of violence.
An essential part of boundary practice is the standard that you hold for yourself as you set and maintain boundaries.
There is no situation in which I'm going to yell at someone, call them names, or make accusations toward them. None of those things meet my standard for my behavior or my personal responsibility.
You decide your own standards for your behavior and NEVER let a situation get beyond the point where you can uphold your standards for your own behavior. This alone is a boundary.
In my case, this means if I am feeling profoundly frustrated, I need to create space for myself to regulate so that I don't end up yelling at the person and violating my own standard for my own behavior.
It is possible for me to enact any and every necessary boundary without the slightest bit of disrespect toward the other person.
When your setting and maintenance of your boundaries is consistently respectful of others, it doesn't matter if you're setting them based on your own wounding, because your boundaries are not an act of violence.
Since you are not disrespecting or being violent to the other person, you have the option, after you've returned to safety, to return to that relationship when and if that ever feels good to you again. You may be able to explain how triggered you were, explain why you were triggered, let them know that you see how that was you and not them, share why you value them so much, express appreciation for the way they respected your boundary when you set it, and ask if they'd like to continue to relate now that you've resolved that element of confusion.
Boundaries enable connection. If your boundaries are not increasing the amount of connection and the deliciousness of connection in your life, you may want to book a boundary assessment with me. We can investigate your boundary practice and add in some tune-ups wherever you want them.
AND FINALLY... If your boundaries mean someone is gone from your life forever, that is because they were not able to connect with you in a way that felt like connection to both of you. Connection was not truly available in that relationship, and you WILL find it somewhere else.