March 22, 2018

Boundaries: What they are, why you need them, and how to set healthy ones.


What Type Of Boundary Fence Are You?

Boundaries can be thought of as an invisible line between you and others. Everything on your side of the line is your responsibility; this includes your body, thoughts, feelings, actions, and desires. Everything outside that line is outside of your responsibility. Everyone has boundaries; it’s just a matter of what type of boundaries you have. There are three types: rigid, loose, and healthy. Rigid boundaries are like a dark solid line through which nothing can pass. Loose boundaries are like a broken down, poorly constructed fence where anything can come in or out. Healthy boundaries are like a solid fence with an opening for things to come in and out.

Healthy boundaries are necessary because they enable you to recognize and set limits so that you can best function in the roles you have. With healthy boundaries, you can give your best while also taking care of yourself. With healthy boundaries, you are able to give and receive the support that is vital to overall wellness. If you are frequently taking responsibility for the feelings and choices of others, as in the case of loose boundaries, then you are likely left feeling drained, frustrated, and helpless. Having loose boundaries leads you to focus unnecessary energy on things you are not responsible for and have little to no control over. This is exhausting and frustrating! If you struggle with rigid boundaries, you are probably guarded and unwilling to ask for help. This can leave you feeling lonely, isolated, and helpless.

Questions To Ask Yourself About Boundaries

It is possible to have different kinds of boundaries in different relationships, so take some time to think about what boundaries look like with different friends and family members. What would you say is your typical boundary style? How did you develop your boundary style? For most people, boundaries were learned in the family in which they grew up. It’s also important to explore what beliefs you hold about boundaries. One common belief is that setting boundaries means you are selfish or unkind.  Where do you need to adjust your boundaries so that they can be healthier? What makes it hard for you to set healthy boundaries? Are there certain relationships where it’s harder to set healthy boundaries? Answers to these questions will lay the foundation for taking the next steps.

Setting Boundaries

In order to set healthy boundaries you need to know what your limits, preferences, and interests are. Identify the areas where you need to set limits and start small. Don’t try to tackle every relationship or boundary at once because that will lead to you feeling overwhelmed and less likely to follow through. Use assertive communication to let others know what your boundaries are. Be respectful and clear about what the concern is and let them know what you’d like to see change. Practice saying “No.” This may feel uncomfortable at first but start in situations where there is less at stake. While starting to set boundaries, it’s beneficial to have support. This can be from good friends, a partner, pastor, or counselor. Another part of having healthy boundaries is respecting other’s boundaries. Allow others to say no or set their own limits. You can also respect others by not taking responsibility for things that they are responsible for, such as their feelings and choices.

Beginning to set healthy boundaries can be challenging. You will likely experience resistance from those who are not used to you setting limits. You might also experience a range of emotions as you try to make these changes. Understand that these are normal and that setting healthy boundaries is worth it and may take some trial and error. The more that you reinforce and repeat your boundaries, the more effective they will be. Experiencing resistance from others is another opportunity to practice healthy boundaries by not taking responsibility for other’s reactions or feelings. If you’d like to talk more about boundaries and how to make these changes in your life, call me today!

Written by therapist Ndunge Marquardt

We can help you get started

Ready to set up your first appointment?

If you haven’t been in touch with us yet, you can get started by filling out our intake form.