By Alex Stewart
There are many misconceptions about boundaries and what they do and represent. If one looks up the word boundary in the dictionary, the primary definition is “a dividing line.” And when a person hears the word boundary, it is easy to think that all that comes with it is limitations.
Below, we will explore what a boundary is, the different types of boundaries that exist, the importance of creating boundaries, how to set boundaries, and lastly, the challenge of creating boundaries.
What is a boundary in the therapeutic space?
A boundary is an invisible line that separates a person’s feelings, needs, and responsibilities from another person. While boundaries are universal, they are unique to each person due to the values, beliefs, limits, and relationships in which they seek to set boundaries. Boundaries set by one person may not work for another– they all can vary from relationship to relationship. What works for you in another
There are different types of boundaries as well:
- Physical: Defining what personal space looks like to you, whether PDA, distance during conversations, or who you feel comfortable shaking hands with, hugging, or other forms of physical contact.
- Emotional: Focused on protecting your feelings and emotional well-being, helping you avoid emotional manipulation, taking on other’s emotions, or becoming overly involved in the feelings/problems of others.
- Mental: Safeguards for thoughts, values, and beliefs– these allow you to have healthy discourse and discussions with others without guilt or pressure to people-please or conform to the opinions of others.
- Time: Time is said to be one of the most valuable resources on earth. These boundaries ensure that you have ample space to engage in work, social endeavors, and self-care
Why create boundaries?
Setting boundaries is an important aspect of our holistic health. Some pros of setting boundaries are as follows:
- Increased self-care: Boundary setting is a part of self-care and may open up time and space for you to engage in other activities that fulfill you.
- Maintaining healthy relationships: Boundaries foster mutual respect and trust. They build space for clear, honest communication.
- Reducing Stress: By defining your limits, you can avoid overcommitting or engaging in stressful activities, which can help prevent burnout.
- Feelings of Empowerment: Setting boundaries can give you control over your life by allowing you to make choices based on your values, beliefs, desires, and limits.
How do you go about setting boundaries?
To start, genuine connection and open conversation are our best allies when it comes to setting boundaries, but there are a couple of other things to keep in mind that will aid you in establishing clear ones:
- Knowing Yourself: Developing boundaries begins within! Take the time to define your values and beliefs. Knowing these lets you clearly identify your wants, needs, and limits to communicate them well to yourself and others.
- Being Consistent: Building a long-lasting habit takes time. Being consistent will teach you to be unwavering in setting your boundaries; the people you set them with are more likely to take them seriously.
- Respecting Others: As you expect others to respect and stick to your boundaries, extending them the same courtesy is important. It takes two to tango in a healthy relationship!
The Challenges in Setting Boundaries
Setting boundaries can be difficult and scary. These conversations can be uncomfortable, confrontational, and sometimes result in pushback from the person with whom you’re attempting to set boundaries. Other possibilities that keep a person from setting boundaries are internalized guilt or boundary violations.
One part of the boundary-setting process is accepting that caring for oneself is not selfish. As stated above, another part of this process is being firm and habitual in setting boundaries– even more important when boundaries are crossed.
Just because a task is difficult doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing– being able to set boundaries has many benefits and is vital to your overall well-being. It may take time, but some people will respect and cherish your boundaries as much as you do.
Boundaries do not have to be dividing walls that cut off interpersonal relationships– they can catalyze deeper connections. Setting and maintaining boundaries is not a one-time thing. It is a lifelong practice that builds self-awareness, discipline, and courage. As you continuously set boundaries, you will open up a world to personal freedom and the ability to nurture healthier, fulfilling relationships with others.
If you struggle to set boundaries and wish for that to change, reach out to someone in our office to be matched with one of the therapists here. Together, you and your provider can change how you engage in your relationships.
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