How Setting Strong BOundaries will change your life
If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Yes Man’, you know that we can often end up living our lives saying ‘Yes’ to everyone and everything. Before we know it, on the path to saying ‘Yes’ in attempts to make everyone happy, we’ve lost ourselves and have a hard time finding our way back. Well, I’m here to tell you, that finding your way back to your own personal boundaries can and WILL change your life. Today, I’m going to share with you exactly what boundaries are (hint: there more complex than you think) and why setting them is a game changer for living a healthy, happy life.
Do you find yourself keeping others at a distance? Maybe you have only 1 or 2 close relationships, you have a hard time telling even your closest friends what you need or want for yourself, or have a hard time asking for help?
Do you find that you tend to have a hard time saying ‘No’ to the people around you who are constantly asking for favors? You tend to overshare your personal information with people you barely know and become over-invested in their problems?
You do this because either you’re worried that people won’t accept you or you feel that you can’t trust them to understand what you’re going through? Either way, it’s impacted your relationships and how you feel about yourself and now you’re not sure how to go back and draw a line in the sand.
We’re often taught how to set physical boundaries when we are very young, as well as to respect others’ ‘space bubbles’, but we don’t really learn about the OTHER boundaries that are equally important to set.
Healthy boundaries can help us get our needs met in relationships, increase our capacity for compassion, experience less anger and resentment towards others and creates a space for us to prioritize and nourish our mind, body and spirit. When we don’t set boundaries, we end up feeling taken advantage of, burned out, stressed out and end up as people pleasers, workaholics, isolated or feeling misunderstood. Simply stated: Boundaries are one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health & wellness.
So What Exactly ARE Boundaries? And What Types of Boundaries Do We Need to Set?
Boundaries are the rules and principles we live by, the limits we are willing to accept in how we treat others and how others treat us in order to uphold those rules and principles and the space within which we can not only be our best selves, but also thrive and grow into someone even better in the future.
Types of boundaries:
- Physical boundaries are placed around our personal space, including the space around our bodies as well as spaces we deem safe and belonging to us (such as our room or car).
- Healthy physical boundaries include an awareness of what’s appropriate, and what’s not, in various settings and types of relationships. It also includes communicating your own as well as accepting others boundaries in this respect. For example, if a child says. ‘I don’t want to hug you’, we respect that by saying, ‘I’m sorry I crossed your physical boundary, I respect your space and I won’t hug you if you don’t want me to.’
- Physical boundaries become violated when someone touches you when you don’t want them to, or when they invade your personal space without permission (for example, going through your purse, or entering your room without asking first).
- Sexual boundaries fall within our physical boundaries but largely are set around the emotional, intellectual, and physical aspects of sexuality.
- Healthy sexual boundaries involve mutual understanding and respect of limitations and desires between sexual partners. This includes where and how we like to be touched intimately as well as how we want to be spoken to during intimate moments or environments and situations we don’t want sexual comments or acts to be initiated.
- Sexual boundaries become violated with unwanted sexual touch, pressure to engage in sexual acts, leering, or sexual comments.
- Intellectual boundaries are surrounding our thoughts and ideas.
- Healthy intellectual boundaries include respect for others’ ideas, and an awareness of appropriate discussion.
- Intellectual boundaries become violated when someone dismisses or belittles another person’s thoughts or ideas.
- Emotional boundaries are set around our feelings.
- Healthy emotional boundaries include limitations on when to share, and when not to share, personal information. For example, gradually sharing personal information during the development of a relationship, as opposed to revealing everything to everyone.
- Emotional boundaries become violated when someone criticizes, belittles, or invalidates another person’s feelings. Telling someone they’re ‘just being sensitive’ not only invalidates the other person’s feelings, but will likely make them less likely to confide in you in the future.
- Material boundaries are set around our money and possessions. More specifically, what we are willing to lend, how we want others to treat our possessions and limits around favors, our services or labor.
- Healthy material boundaries involve setting limits on what you will share, and with whom. For example, it may be appropriate to lend a car to a family member, but probably not to someone you met this morning. It can also involve setting limits around how often we are willing to help others financially and/or perform favors for others.
- Material boundaries are violated when someone steals or damages another person’s possessions, or when they pressure them to give or lend them their possessions. They can also become violated if they are constantly asking for favors or expect you to work for free.
- Time boundaries are set around how we use our time, who or what we give our time to and how much of our time is dedicated to tasks or people.
- To have healthy time boundaries, a person must set aside enough time for various facets of their lives such as work, relationships, and hobbies. This dispersion of time must be balanced in a way that allows your individual needs to be met.
- Time boundaries are violated when another person demands too much of another’s time, doesn’t properly value their time (as in wages paid or length of tasks asked of you) or when we don’t properly allocate our own time to allow our needs to be met. (example. when you work 18 hours a day and don’t spend any time on self care activities to help reduce stress).
So Now That You Know What Boundaries Need to be Set, How Exactly do These Boundaries Lead to a Healthier, Happier Life?
Research shows that having strong boundaries can lead to several benefits. One of those is that we are less angry and resentful of others and therefore are more compassionate. We tend to have a combination of healthy, rigid and porous boundaries.
- Rigid boundaries tend to happen when we are so firm that we end up keeping others at a distance, isolating ourselves and failing to ‘let others in’.
- Porous boundaries are the extreme opposite: when we let people ‘in’ too quickly or give way too much of ourselves in many areas of our life.
. We take charge of our time and tell people when they’ve gone too far. Healthy boundaries lead us to become more in tune with ourselves. have more fulfilling relationships, more easily focus on the positive aspects of life and knowing how to put ourselves first.
Did you read this article and think, ‘Where do I even start?’
I may be able to help you!
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Amanda Pratt, LCSW
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