Boundaries and Three Reasons Why People Don’t Change

In my journey as a Forgiveness Coach, I’ve learned that many times before forgiveness can happen, boundaries need to be put in place. Among many other things, my clients and I talk frequently about forgiveness, acceptance and letting go. And we all agree that forgiveness is easiest when someone comes and genuinely apologizes, takes responsibility and promises that whatever was done, will not be done again.

But while working with clients who have narcissistic parents, and know that they will never change nor apologize for their behavior, I’ve learned that forgiveness often needs to be put on hold, while we deal with boundaries, and the disappointment that comes when someone refuses to change.

Most people, particularly women, have a difficult time putting up boundaries and protecting themselves from harm, because we are taught to be nice and available and accommodating.

But boundaries are about self love. And they are what you need, when someone in your life who has hurt you refuses to change.

Recently I was profoundly disappointed to learn that a person can live twenty years and not change. Twenty years of life and lessons without accountability, accepting responsibility, nor promising that anything in the future will be any different.

I simply couldn’t understand how that was possible.

I know the reasons why people choose to change. I needed to learn the reasons why they don’t.

And this is what I found.

People prefer what is comfortable and/or familiar: In my last post, I mentioned that what inspires someone to move to a new city or new profession or new adventure is the desire to grow. But anything new can feel uncomfortable, awkward, lonely or even painful. Most changes can create stress. Because of this, some people simply make the choice to stay in jobs, marriages, towns, situations that they are not happy in or that do not contribute to their growth. The path of least resistance is usually deemed safe and easy. But safe and easy don’t bring about change.

Not wanting to be accountable: Accountability requires maturity, self awareness and lack of ego. There seems to be a direct connection between insecurity and a person’s ability to receive advice, correction or criticism. This fear and insecurity keeps a person stuck, unable to make changes, heal relationships or grow as a person. There is so much that we could learn if we just realized that other people serve as mirrors for us, and we for them. Insecurity blocks accountability which then blocks growth and change.

Sense of identity: Each of us has a story that we tell ourselves. It’s how we identify ourselves in this world. We show the world our stories by the way we dress, speak, where we choose to live and the people that we associate with. When we are very attached to our story, change becomes very difficult. That’s the ego again. Because it means that we are much more attached to our external world and the validation that we receive from it, rather than the internal and essential part of ourselves.

I found these quotes and wanted to share them because they all talk about growth and change and personal development.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” -Fredrick Douglass

“Don’t go through life, grow through life.” -Eric Butterworth

Sometimes we need to be reminded that our time is limited, and that the best thing we can do while we’re here is constantly try to be better.

To be better, you need the capacity to change.

We are only responsible for ourselves. We were born alone and we will die alone. And whatever growth we achieved in life was because we chose it, even when we were afraid, or uncomfortable or felt that our ego was bruised in the process.

“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”

-Abraham Maslow

First thing to ask yourself is “Who do I want to be?”

Maybe you’ve gone your whole life and never asked yourself that. Or maybe you never realized that the person you were shaped and encouraged to be by your family, religious institution or societal norms is not the person that you want to be from this day forward.

“What traits and behaviors do I want to have or exhibit?”

I used to be very pessimistic and a general complainer. Happy to say I changed that about myself just by deciding that I wanted to be different and realizing that a behavior can easily be altered with the right mindset.

“Who do I need to establish boundaries with, because they do not support the person I want to be?”

If there is someone in your life who you know will never change, grow or tolerate your personal growth because of how it might affect them, consider where your boundaries are in that relationship. Do you need to strengthen them? Have you never put them up?

-Pauli

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