Boundaries are a very hot topic, and there is good reason for it.
Boundaries can be thought of as invisible line. Inside the line is you and you mental, emotional and physical space. On the other side is your external environment, including your friends, family and work colleagues.
Just like you have rules with your physical space, for example, who can come into your house and on your land, boundaries are a way to communicate your mental, emotional and physical needs and limitations.
For example, you may put a boundary in place that tells other people how they can treat you. Or, if you are particularly anxious, a boundary in a social situation with a certain challenge and time limit on being in a social setting.
Healthy boundaries can look like:
- Telling your boss you won’t work late tonight
- Being honest with a friend if you don’t want to do what they want to do because it makes you feel uncomfortable/anxious
- Being honest with when you need space with/away from someone
- Saying no
Unhealthy boundaries can look like:
- Working late
- Going to places/doing things that make you uncomfortable
- Disrespecting beliefs, thoughts and/or values
- Taking on responsibility for others feelings
If boundaries are a new concept to you, they may be hard to enforce at first. This is because the people that surround you are going to be used to you behaving in a certain way, particularly if you identify as a people pleaser. There may be push back if it triggers something in them, or some may get the wrong idea. That’s not always the case though. Some people will kindly accept and respect your boundaries. Remember that relationships are a two way street.
Boundaries, however, are completely pointless if you do not enforce them. If you have a boundary and someone crosses it… then challenging it and providing feedback can be a positive way to reinforce that you are serious about your boundaries.
Benefits of setting boundaries:
The benefits of boundaries can probably be summed up in a few words, including self care. As you will see below, boundaries can help you positively, both mentally and physically.
- Reduce people pleasing/over extending yourself
- Stay true to a life that is aligned to you
- Build confidence, self trust and esteem
- Communicates realistic expectations to peers
- Safety within yourself
How to set boundaries:
Boundaries are things that will continue to change and evolve, just as you do throughout life. You may not have any or them all figured out yet, and that’s okay.
Start by reviewing your current situation, perhaps using the health and unhealthy boundaries table above to see if any of them resonate with you.
For example, are you a people pleaser?
If so, what patterns do you currently fall into? What steps can you take to change this? What boundaries can you put in place moving forward?
What feels good to you?
What aligns with you?
Tips to setting boundaries:
#1 Identify why you need/want to set the boundary
#2 Clearly layout the boundary
#3 Share the boundary with the relevant people or at the relevant time
#4 Don’t justify or give long explanations
#5 Address any challenges/resistance to your boundaries by having a calm, civil conversation with the other party
#6 Surround yourself with people who respect your boundaries
#7 Be strong and trust yourself and your boundaries
What kind of boundaries do you have in place? Are they protecting your mental health?