The topic of “boundaries” comes up frequently in conversation, particularly in the mental health context.
But what exactly are boundaries and why do we need them?
A boundary is basically a limit. It can be something tangible, like a “no trespassing” sign, or invisible, like choosing not to answer personal questions if they make you uncomfortable. When we talk about personal boundaries, we mean boundaries in relationships. And not just romantic ones. There are many different types of relationships including: familial, plutonic, collegial, etc. Identifying your limits in each of these relationships is the first step to developing and maintaining healthy boundaries.
Boundaries help you to determine what is acceptable and what is not in a relationship. For example, if someone asks you out on a date and you politely decline, but they keep asking you to go out again and again without taking “no” for an answer. This is violating your boundaries.
Healthy boundaries is the very first step in creating healthy relationships. The second step is to stick with the boundaries you have created, and have a plan in place for what happens if someone continues to violate those boundaries.
Boundaries are necessary for self-care. Without them we often feel: anxious, depleted, angry, burned out, resentful, hurt, or taken advantage of. While there are some actions that clearly cross boundaries for almost anyone, we all have different levels of comfort when it comes to setting boundaries especially around deeply personal things like privacy and intimacy.
Because of this, it’s important not to assume that other people know what your boundaries are. If you feel like someone is not respecting your boundaries, you have to let them know so they have an opportunity to correct the behavior. If you don’t speak up when a boundary has been crossed, it gives whoever you are interacting with the impression that you are okay with what just happened. If they choose not to, that is when consequences for these types of behaviors become more important. The act of setting and sticking to boundaries is a skill, and isn’t something that happens overnight. It isn’t always comfortable, especially if this is a new practice for you. Sometimes people around you may push back and test your limits if they notice this is something new you’re trying. Just because you tell someone “no” and they get upset, doesn’t mean you should have said “yes.” The more clear and consistent you are with your boundaries, the more likely others are to adjust to the new way of interacting with you.
Click here to subscribe to my mailing list and receive exciting news and updates.