What are boundaries?
A fence outside the house sets limits of your property and differentiates your house from the street outside. Your house boundary changes for people according to your relationship with them for example a postal service official will leave your post in the letter box outside your house, a gardener may enter the front gate and tend to the yard, your neighbours may be allowed in the living room and kitchen whereas your family, friends and relations have access to all the rooms. Similar to these physical boundaries all individuals have certain personal boundaries, behaviours that are okay and those that aren’t, you may not like your co-workers using your water bottle in the office but you may not have an issue with a family member sharing your water bottle at home. This is a boundary.
A personal boundary defines acceptable and unacceptable behaviours in all of our relationships and they change with situation, intimacy and context. Thereby setting limits of how we want people to behave towards us and interact with us.
Types of Boundaries?
Boundaries apply to several areas:
Material boundaries- Your material Possessions
Physical boundaries- your personal space, privacy, and body.
Mental boundaries - your thoughts, values, and opinions.
Emotional boundaries- Separation between your emotions and responsibility for them from someone else’s.
Sexual boundaries- your comfort level with sexual touch and activity.
Spiritual boundaries - your beliefs and experiences in connection with God or a higher power.
Benefits of having boundaries
More Compassion and less resentment: Boundaries are a function of compassion according to Brene Brown. Her research has shown that people with most compassion and healthy self-esteem also had healthy boundaries. She says in her book Rising Strong, “Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say ‘no’ when they need to, and when they say ‘yes’, they mean it. They are compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment”
More respect: Because you have established clear and strong boundaries people will respect you more.
Healthier Relationships: You will be at ease with yourself and will be able to ask for what you need without fear of judgement and that will keep the unhealthy relationships away and bring in sustainable and loving relationships.
More Confidence: You think of your well-being and are comfortable with yourself. You don’t assume responsibility for another person’s emotions but do for your own. This helps you respect yourself and makes you more confidence.
How to establish boundaries?
Poor Boundaries: Setting boundaries is not an easy thing and it shouldn’t be done out of anger and nagging because then the boundaries may be a function of manipulation, punishment or selfishness. Sometimes we make poor boundaries without even realising that our underlying intentions are not healthy.
Healthy Boundaries: Setting healthy boundaries requires assertiveness, self-awareness, calmness courteousness and firmness. Healthy boundaries are to protect your own mental health and well-being.
Steps for setting healthy boundaries:
Self-awareness- Before you start setting boundaries you need to know what you like and dislike. To do this you need to understand what your values are. This may take a long time because these are difficult questions but keep pushing on, understand your values in one area of life make some boundaries and move on to next.
Ask questions and re-evaluate your current boundaries: What would like people to stop saying to you? What behaviour from people towards you or around you would you like to stop? What makes you feel you are being taken advantage of? What makes you think, “why did I agree to this?”
Things to remember:
- Saying no is not rude if the requests make you uncomfortable and even when they don’t but you don’t think you can comply.
- Your intention for setting a boundary is your own protection and well-being and not punishment for another person
- When being assertive, calm, firm and courteous doesn’t work state the consequences in a calm manner and don’t make consequences that you can’t follow through with.
Establishing boundaries is a process which makes you love yourself and others with a compassion and capacity that is based in respect for yourself and others.
References and resources:
Brown, B. (2015). Rising strong. Random House.
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Boundaries: When To Say Yes, When To Say No, To Take Control of Your Life. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2004. Companion workbook available. This work, as many other boundary-setting resources, is Christian-oriented.
Lancer, D. (2018). What Are Personal Boundaries? How Do I Get Some?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 11, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-are-personal-boundaries-how-do-i-get-some/
Collingwood, J. (2018). The Importance of Personal Boundaries. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 10, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-importance-of-personal-boundaries/