Boundaries: What They Are & Why We Need Them
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”- Brene Brown
Boundaries are essential in maintaining physical and emotional health. When we set healthy boundaries we recognize the need to set and enforce limits, protect self-esteem and self-respect, and create and enjoy healthy relationships.
Unhealthy boundaries can cause emotional pain and lead to depression, anxiety and in turn can also affect our physical health. Having a lack of healthy boundaries is like leaving the door to your home unlocked; anyone can come in. However having boundaries that are too rigid can lead to isolation; no one can get in and you can’t get out.
What Are Boundaries?
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a boundary is “something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent” such as a perimeter, border, frame etc. This type of boundary is easy to define and recognize. Personal boundaries can be more difficult to recognize; they are invisible, can change, and are unique to each individual. Relationships boundaries are guidelines that a person creates to define reasonable and safe ways for others to behave around them and how they will react when someone steps over a boundary.
If you aren’t sure how or where to begin setting boundaries, here are a few things to consider:
Increase your self- awareness: What are your strengths? What parts of yourself can you accept that you cannot change? How did your family of origin affect you; dysfunction, interactions with family members, communication, etc. and how did these experiences influence you? What are your successes in life, and how do you promote those successes and increase self-esteem?
Focus on yourself, not others: You can’t change others; you can only make changes to yourself. Think about your own behaviors that you would like to change. Identify personal needs and actions you can take to meet those needs. Start listening to your feelings. Your feelings can guide you in making decisions that are right for you. Identify ways to increase your self-care. Develop a positive support network.
Learning to trust and respect others: Remember you cannot change other people. Become aware of your own behaviors that may enable others or possibly may be in attempt to control others. You can respect other people’s opinions and behaviors, even if they are different from yours, while still maintaining your boundaries.
Boundaries need to be:
Natural or logical
I statements are a great way to effectively communicate a boundary:
State HOW you feel: “I feel angry…”
WHAT the feeling is about : “…about the way you spoke to me…”
WHY you feel this way: “…because it embarrassed me in front of my friends…”
What you prefer (ACTION): “… I would prefer if you would talk with me about these types of things in private.”
As the quote at the beginning states setting boundaries is courageous, it is also empowering to communicate your needs and have healthy relationships in which your needs are respected. If you find you struggle to set boundaries for fear of losing the relationship, remember healthy relationships are about MUTUAL respect. If you find yourself trying to set boundaries and unable to maintain or stick to your limits or you struggle to identify healthy boundaries, you can always consult with a professional to help you in defining your boundaries and practice ways to effectively communicate your boundaries to others. Both of our therapists at Sol Oasis have experience in working with clients regarding healthy relationships and setting appropriate and effective boundaries to assist in maintaining a healthy mind, body, and spirit.