Often codependents and victims of narcissistic abuse, find themselves at a loss in knowing what their boundaries are. Check out ‘What the hell are boundaries? Overcoming legacy of abuse and narcissism’ to understand more about why this could be the case for you. Nurturing compassion for yourself through understanding will kick start you on your journey to healing and recovery.
The importance of boundaries, of what does and doesn’t work for you mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually, cannot be overstated. These limits are your intuitive protective mechanisms, and guides to pursuing your best life. Your boundaries are also intrinsically linked to your identity, and when expressed give voice to your truth and true self.
Narc Wise is focused on providing you with proven, practical tools to use on your journey to freedom as a survivor of narcissistic abuse, and in recovery from codependency.
In this article one approach is offered for rebuilding your boundaries by tapping into your personal values.
Values shine the light on your boundaries, as well as serving as an internal magic 8 ball for any future sticky decisions that really test what is and isn’t ok for you. Your values will fortify your boundaries and protect you from those who get a kick out of endlessly emptying your tank of precious you-ness. Get your boundaries on now!
What are values?
Personal values are part of the unique fabric of what makes you, you. They are your stable guiding principles, standards, or goals about what is important to you in life. They are the lens with which you perceive yourself and the world, hence they influence your behaviour and decision making.
When living in alignment with your values and what you hold precious, life is experienced with fulfilment, meaning and purpose. When values are not honoured, a deep sense of discontent overtakes, reminding you to re-evaluate the situation, take action to change course, and get back on track.
Values are powerful tools in navigating life’s journey paying homage to your true self.
Now for the nitty gritty…time for you to claim what’s yours!
A big, fat, juicy list
You may know instinctively what really matters to you, with your values easily springing to mind now as you reflect on the concept. It may also be a bit trickier. If so, grab a pen and paper and start building a big, fat, juicy list of things that are super important to you. Jot everything down.
Here are some brain joggers for you…: security, knowledge, achievement, altruism, wellbeing, power, accountability, freedom, peace, community, truth, determination, family, integrity, positivity, respect, faith, creativity, courage, wealth, independence, pleasure, loyalty, intelligence, equality, openness, adventure, independence, curiosity, fun, ambition, consistency, fun, patience, growth, self-awareness, wisdom, justice, fairness, responsibility, modesty etc.
If you need some more ideas, do some googling and you will find a bunch more.
You will know when you’ve found what rings true for you. They will be the concepts that grab your soul and your inner voice will yell throughout your being “THIS, this matters to me; I believe in this”.
You could also try approaching your ‘big fat juicy list’ by reflecting on the following questions.
- When were you most happy or full of joy?
- When were you most proud?
- When have you felt like you’ve lost track of time and been in your ‘flow’?
- When were you most angry?
- When were you most disappointed?
Unpack your immediate responses to find the ‘why’ behind your answers: what happened, and what was the underlying value linked to the situation.
For example, a ‘being in flow and losing track of time answer’ could be ‘when I paint’. Creativity, expression, growth, achievement, knowledge etc. are all possible values being tapped into in this situation. Only you will know what it means for you!
When you get started and notice the things that really matter to you, you are likely to find a whole heap of values that are super important in living your best life. Working towards knowing what are your top 5 (ish) is the next step.
To do this, you could compare pairs of values and decide which one trumps the other for you, until you have whittled down to your absolute priorities.
In this process, you are not forsaking the others, these remain part of what really matters to you. Sorting out your strongest motivating values however, is about putting in place your inner magic 8 ball that you can refer to and rely on for decision making. These guys will be your anchor and compass when you face tricky situations that are less than black and white, showing you the answer that will work best for you and your values.
Claiming your boundaries
So, here’s where we get to the link between values and boundaries. I’ve been using this approach with people recovering from narcissistic abuse and codependency and it works a treat in rebuilding boundaries.
Values are about what’s important to us. Boundaries are about what works for us. The two intersect, in that what works for us, will also be tied to what’s important to us. Whilst boundaries may be elusive for survivors due to the effects of abuse, values are generally not.
The reason for this is that values are tied to our beliefs which are deeply ingrained in our beings. They are a part of who we are. Although they may become obscured through the wounds suffered from abuse, they remain within us and can be reclaimed easily.
As values are stable and innate to our true selves, they are forever part of us and cannot be taken away by anyone. Even if you have been berated, coerced, and manipulated into thinking you are wrong, or should adopt the values of your abuser, NOONE can take them away from you. They are yours.
You know how I know this? Ask yourself these questions:
- How did it feel when you were told your values were wrong?
- How did you feel the times you found yourself acting in direct opposition to what matters to you?
- How did it feel to forsake your values for those of another?
Invariably the answer is ‘not good’ (to put it mildly…). Sad, angry/enraged, hurt, betrayed, anxious, frustrated, depressed – the list goes of emotions goes on.
These reactions are proof that:
- There is a steep price to pay when we forsake our values; and
- Your values have been there all along and cannot be taken away by anyone. No matter how confused you may feel, these guys are stalwarts and will never leave you. You can trust your values will not let you down, i.e.: you can trust yourself and that you know what is best for you.
These emotions are also your in-built alarm system going off, alerting you when something you value is being compromised, which is an indication of where your boundaries lie.
Let’s look at an example related to recovery and using values as a proactive and positive tool to identify your boundaries. Let’s say that kindness is one of your top 5. Your boundaries, behaviours and decisions will reflect being kind to others. This should also mean that you value kindness being accorded to you.
I’ve used the example of kindness specifically because this value is common for victims of narcissistic abuse with being kind to others a natural given (also a calling card for narcissists!). Receiving kindness however, can often be more negotiable. The logic being applied here, particularly in the abusive relationship, is that to be kind means putting others before you even if this causes you damage.
This is false logic*. And do you know how I know, that YOU know this? Reflect back to the times when the manipulation and abuse almost convinced you that you are not worthy of kindness. How did you feel? Yep, that’s right, your inner voice and values were either persistently whispering away, or outright hollering an enraged: This isn’t right! Kindness is everyone’s right! It is my right!
This, right there, is evidence of your boundary being crossed and value being violated. This is how your values inform your boundaries. Whatever behavior is precipitating your response, is not on for you. This is what you will not tolerate. This is your boundary.
*Whilst it is false logic, remember it is a symptom of the abuse suffered. Don’t beat yourself up about it! Remember: valuing receiving kindness also means being kind to yourself!
So now you’ve done the work. You know which values are unequivocally important to you. Keep your top 5 close and build them into your everyday life: put them on your fridge; pop them in your wallet; schedule them into your calendar to remind you every morning; stick them on your bathroom mirror. Whatever you need to do. Do it. Get to know them well and why they matter to you.
Get to know what it would look like to be living your best life with your values leading the way. Reflect on the boundaries you need to implement and maintain to carry out your best life.
When things come up that you feel uncomfortable about, check in on your top 5 and ask yourself what values and boundaries are being compromised, and importantly, what you need to do or ask for, to get you back on your true path.
It is a practice, a daily one, worth every second you invest in integrating your values as your ‘go to’ inner magic 8 ball.
Honor your values and boundaries, and you will be honoring your truest self. This will gift you with clarity, strength, purpose, peace and freedom.
Rely on your values, they are your inner guides that protect you, that whisper (or holler!) your truths about living your best life. Get to it.
Let me know how you go!
Parks-Leduc, L., Feldman, G., & Bardi, A. (2014). Personality traits and personal values. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 19(1), 3-29.