What are Boundaries?
Having clear boundaries is important to have a healthy balanced lifestyle. Boundaries are rules and limits that people must use to let others know how they want to be treated in a way that’s respectful, safe and how they will respond when others cross their limits. Boundaries mark the things we are responsible for and the things we are not.
Types of Boundaries:
• Material boundaries – Determine if you are willing to give or lend things, like your money, car, clothes, books, food, or toothbrush.
• Physical boundaries – Your personal space, privacy and body. Do you give a handshake or a hug – to which people and when? How do you feel about loud music, nudity and locked doors?
• Mental boundaries – Your thoughts, values and opinions. Are you easily suggestible? Do you know what you believe, and can you hold onto your opinions? Can you listen with an open mind to someone else’s opinion? If you become highly emotional, argumentative, or defensive, you may have weak emotional boundaries.
• Emotional boundaries – Being able to separate your emotions from someone else’s. Healthy boundaries prevent you from giving unwanted advice, blaming or accepting blame. The protect you from feeling guilty for someone else’s negative feelings or problems and taking others comments personally. High reactivity suggests weak emotional boundaries. Healthy emotional boundaries require you to know your own feelings and your responsibility to yourself and others.
• Sexual boundaries – Protecting yourself and your comfort level with sexual touch and activity – what, where, when and with who the activity is occurring with.
• Spiritual boundaries – Your beliefs and experiences with God, or a a higher power.
Setting Effective Boundaries:
Often people set a boundary, but then say it didn’t help. There’s a method to setting boundaries successfully. If you set boundaries in anger or by nagging you won’t be heard. Boundaries are not meant to punish, but are for your well-being and protection. They are more effective when you are assertive, calm, firm and respectful. If that doesn’t work you may need to communicate what the consequences will be if others do not respect your boundaries. Never give a consequence you are not able to carry out.
It takes time, support and relearning to set effective boundaries. Self-awareness and learning to be assertive are the first steps. Setting boundaries isn’t selfish, it’s taking care of yourself – every time you say “no” you are saying “yes” to yourself. It builds your self-esteem. But often it takes time and encouragement to make yourself a priority and to keep going even when you receive pushback from others.
Guilt and Resentment:
Anger is a clear sign that action is required. If you feel resentful or victimized and are blaming someone or something, it might mean you haven’t been setting boundaries. If you feel anxious or guilty about setting boundaries, remember, your relationship suffers when you are unhappy. Once you get more practice setting boundaries, you feel empowered and suffer less anxiety, resentment, and guilt. Generally, you receive more respect from others and your relationships improve.