What are my boundaries when I’ve stopped fawning?

I’ve had a revelation this week regarding boundaries. There are outer boundaries, and there are inner boundaries. I’ve worked very hard on my outer boundaries during the past few years, and I have come to see myself as finally quite good at placing outer boundaries in relation to others (barring a few examples, one of them being my children). I now realize I don’t actually know much about my inner ones.

You’ve probably heard of the trauma responses fight-flight-freeze. There is a fourth one, called fawning. This survival response is an attempt to avoid conflict by appeasing people. It is apparently common in neurodivergent people as it is a way for us to hide our neurodivergent behaviours and appear what is deemed to be “normal”.

I realized this week that I fawn all the time. It is so normal to me, that I don’t even think about it. So how can I have boundaries when I don’t know what they are? What would I be doing if I wasn’t fawning by default?

I’ll give you an example. I am very sensitive to being around lots of other people, where the place gets crowded with lots of noises. When I am in such a situation, I am already in a strained relationship with my own senses. I am already uncomfortable, and when I am negotiating my needs vis-à-vis the needs and preferences of another person (for instance, the volume of background music) I don’t know where to place my boundaries – because I am already feeling uncomfortable to start with. Meeting a person “halfway” in compromises are often at my expense and I don’t know whose standards I am comparing mine to. How much are you suffering in comparison with my suffering?

If I were to listen to my inner boundaries that are not in relation to another person, that aren’t relative to something other, I might quit a lot of things, because when I have negotiated my true needs things that I used to put up with won’t pass anymore. Perhaps that is what I will come to experience in the future. I wonder what that will be like, because I truly don’t know yet.