If you find yourself depleted, frustrated, resentful, or burnt out, you probably need help understanding what healthy boundaries look like. So many people are afraid to set boundaries because it feels like “confrontation” but in reality it’s communication. These limits can take many forms, Simply put, boundaries are where you end, and someone else begins. There isn’t a magic formula for creating boundaries telling you what is “right” or wrong” for what they should look like. Instead, you have to figure out what is right for you. Having boundaries that are too rigid or too loose creates psychological distress. Some common reasons people don’t set boundaries can be because they don’t want to upset anyone, have people-pleasing tendencies, are co-dependent, or see the world as very black and white, with no gray areas. Setting these lines for yourself is not meant to control or punish other people; they are intended to preserve and protect yourself. Most people don’t realize that they are violating boundaries and do not have that intention, but that doesn’t make it okay for you to tolerate it.
Boundaries help teach others how to treat you. Knowing your boundaries can bring a sense of freedom to your life.
It allows you to stick up for your values, self-care, and stress management and helps you take healthy responsibility for your life (and not others). People who respect your boundaries usually have a good sense of what is healthy, and those who don’t respect your boundaries are typically more toxic. It’s not your job to fix, repair, or heal other people. Your job is to love yourself enough to know your limits.
Here are some examples of the boundary categories:
- Physical boundaries relate to your personal space and body. For example, a boundary for you might be: “I’ll only shake hands with people I first meet,” or if someone stands too close, you may return or ask them to take a step back.
- Mental boundaries apply to your thoughts, values, and opinions. What are you got giving your mental attention to? For example, not giving too much weight to something someone says could make you defensive or combative. Or, instead of worrying, recognize what you can and can’t control.
- Emotional boundaries mean knowing clearly what is and is not yours to deal with. It is the ability to take in information and scan for anything accurate or helpful and then being able to discard the rest. These are especially important in relationships. In arguments, no one hears what the other person is saying because their defense is being formulated. Good emotional boundaries are observing and looking at other people’s emotions without absorbing them. This is the ability to hear accurately what someone is saying and know that just because someone says something from an emotional response does not mean that it is accurate or that you need to take it on unless there is true or accurate information. Healthy emotional boundaries suggest you don’t need to dispense advice or try and “fix” someone else’s problems. These boundaries don’t let guilt get in the way of decision-making, and it’s knowing that you don’t have to “fix” other people’s problems.
- Financial boundaries are what you do with your money. How you spend, save, give, and budget. There can often be arguments over finances in relationships. Knowing what your limits are around money and what you are open to negotiating with a friend, partner, or family member is crucial.
- Sexual boundaries are the ability to understand and draw lines around your comfort level with physical touch, intimacy, and sexual behaviors.
It’s important to be very clear and concrete in your mind and with other people about what your boundaries are. Here are a few tips to get started:
- Where do you need to have a line drawn or say no? Look at areas in your life where you might be feeling drained or frustrated.
- Learn to put yourself first without guilt: Check in daily and see how you feel and what you need.
- Recognizing that “I’m responsible for me, and you’re responsible for you.”
- Permission to ask for what you want and need without apology. This will require learning to “fall in love” with yourself & Fulfill your own needs.
To implement these steps, here are some essential questions to reflect on:
- What do I need to make my life more manageable?
- Develop a structure to protect your time, energy & what you value
- Communicate your boundaries clearly & prepare for violations
- Identify expectations/standards: What do you expect of yourself and others?
Boundaries are the best gift you can give to someone else, and to yourself. When you have boundaries and know what they are, you can communicate them and show people how best to engage with you and treat you the way that you deserve to be treated.