Let’s Talk About Boundaries!
Personal boundaries are limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. This includes our bodies, property, emotions, preferences, opinions, time, and spiritual beliefs. Boundaries define where you stop and others begin – like a property fence shows where your yard ends and your neighbor’s yard begins (aka – where can I stop weeding?!?). Boundaries help us know what we are responsible for and what we have the power to change. Just as important, boundaries define what we aren’t responsible for and can’t change.
People with healthy boundaries can ask for what they want and can say “no” when they need to. Boundaried people also respect the limits that others set. Boundaries establish a distinct sense of self that keeps you aligned with your values and protects you from potentially harmful relationships or situations. For example, if someone were to act aggressively in a relationship, a boundaried person could identify, “I don’t like that (know their preference). I will spend less time with this person (take responsibility to change their own behavior).”
Boundaries allow us to be comfortable with close relationships. When we know the other person will respect our boundaries, it gives us a sense of safety and we can let down our guard. When we set appropriate boundaries, we don’t have to be concerned about losing our self in the other person. “When one person is in control of another, love cannot grow deeply and fully, as there is no freedom” (Cloud &Townsend, 2002)
There are three ways we navigate boundaries. We can implement boundaries in rigid, porous, and healthy ways.
- Rigid: This type of boundary holding tends to avoid intimacy and close relationships, tends to be protective over personal information, and keeps others at distance in fear of getting hurt or rejected. I like to think of this trait as the great wall of China-nothing can get through!
- Porous: This way of holding boundaries typically overshares personal information, can be dependent on others and their opinions, and fears rejection if they do not comply with what others want. This trait typically leaves others feeling drained or allows people to speak into your life in ways that may not align with who you really are.
- Healthy: This type is the ultimate goal! Health boundaries can value other people’s thoughts and opinions (because you can respect that the thought and opinion is theirs), knows personal wants and needs and can communicate them, and accepts when others say no.
Here are a few ways to set boundaries for yourself:
- State how you care about the person and why setting this boundary is important for you.
- Clearly state what you want (or don’t want).
- Negotiate. Give the person options around respecting this boundary.
- Expect push back. Whenever we set a boundary, others will bump up against it as they learn where the boundary is (and to see if you’re really serious about it). Expect others to test your boundary and hold firm (without resentment).
- If this person can’t respect your boundary, be specific around consequences and what you can tolerate.
Setting boundaries is a skill that we can all learn. If you need some support in figuring out where boundaries are needed or how to establish them in your life, call me to set up an appointment at 720-935-2663.
(2016) What are personal boundaries?. www.therapistaid.com
Written by Michelle Anderson