With the overload of self-help information available online and the increased conversations about “self-care” in both personal and work life, the topic surrounding boundary setting has entered the scene. So, what exactly are boundaries and why are they so necessary for our survival? Simply put, boundaries are how we define what we consider appropriate behaviors (what you are comfortable or uncomfortable with) in our relationships with ourselves and others (Positive Psychology). When we have healthy boundaries, we create a safe space and build positive self-care habits. Without boundaries in place, we run the risk of feeling powerless with things such as our sense of self, time, money, or other major life areas. If you are like most people, you might have experienced difficulties setting boundaries (ever feel guilty telling someone no?) or have had your boundaries crossed at some point in your life (family members love crossing our boundaries; or feelings of resentment). While frustrating to think about, you are not alone. The following info may help you better understand and navigate your boundaries.
Some Benefits of Having Healthy Boundaries
- Improve our emotional, mental, and physical health
- Relationships are better
- Builds those positive self-care habits
- Our stress levels and feelings of burnout decreases
- Our needs can get met!
- We build up our autonomy and our identity
- We communicate better (clear expectations of what we need; people can meet our needs if they don’t know what they are)
While this is just a short list of the benefits we can gain from building and having healthier boundaries, sometimes we don’t even know what areas of our lives need them most. Let’s take some to break down common areas that need boundaries.
1. Emotional Boundaries: How are people talking about or treating you? Do you have the emotional bandwidth for others?
2. Mental Boundaries: You are allowed to have your own thoughts and core values separate from others.
3. Conversational Boundaries: Topics we are ok/uncomfortable talking about.
4. Physical Boundaries: Your personal and body space (Do we like being touched by others?)
5. Sexual Boundaries: What do we like/don’t like when we are intimate with others?
6. Workplace Boundaries: how do you like to work in a professional setting? What are your expectations for coworkers?
7. Material Boundaries: This may look like money decisions or lending others your things.
8. Time Boundaries: Time spent for yourself, doing things, or on other people.
9. Internal Boundaries: What do you need to self-regulate?
Once you explore what boundaries you need in these different areas, next comes the tougher part. How do we set these boundaries with others and stick to them?
How to Set Healthy Boundaries
1. When in doubt, start small: Setting boundaries can be overwhelming and can lead you down a spiral of trying to tackle too many things at once. Take a breath and try to focus on setting one boundary at a time.
2. What’s your main goal: When creating a boundary, thinking about what the main goal is and why you need this boundary in this area of your life?
3. Be direct/clear: When communicating our needs, being clear about what we need is going to help others understand what our boundary is. Remember, no one is a mind reader and unless we communicate, they cannot meet that expectation for us.
4. Keep it simple: While it may seem beneficial to add a lot of details to your boundaries, less is more! Keeping it easy to understand helps not only you communicate it effectively but also allows others to not get confused about what it is we are telling them.
5. Practice, practice, practice: Boundary setting can feel uncomfortable and be hard to do at times. The more you practice, the easier it will get.
You are allowed to get your needs met and have your boundaries respected! Boundaries are a part of so many aspects of life and are necessary to have healthy relationships with ourselves and others in our lives. Setting healthy boundaries can really impact and improve vital areas we need to stay mentally healthy and thrive.