By Maria Lebron, June 2021
Boundaries don’t keep us apart but rather healthy emotional and physical boundaries are the basis for forming healthy relationships and are necessary for our safety and well-being. Boundaries are the way we tell others what we need, what our limits are, and how we want to be treated. When we don’t have good boundaries in place, we may lose our sense of self by focusing only on what others expect of us.
Why Are Boundaries Necessary?
Boundaries allow you to to practice self-care in relationships, with family, and in your workplace. Not making your self-care a priority can lead to resentment, relationship imbalances, or exploitation.
Not having proper boundaries can cause you to feel too open to everyone, while rigid boundaries can cause you to not anyone in. Boundaries should be flexible and can change over time depending on the person or situation. Boundaries are a personal decision each person needs to make for themselves.
Boundaries can help you avoid things which make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Notice how you feel when you’re being asked for something and if you experience any of the following, you may need to set a boundary:
— I don’t feel I have a right to say no
— I feel guilty if I say no
— I feel resentful of someone’s expectations of me
— I feel used or exploited
— Someone’s expectation of me seems unreasonable
— I don’t feel like my needs or feelings are being respected
— I feel emotionally exhausted around someone
How Can I Set Proper Boundaries?
Setting healthy boundaries is empowering. It’s more important for you to tolerate possibly being uncomfortable enforcing boundaries than to be assertive.
Following these tips can help make it easier to set and enforce boundaries:
— Share personal information gradually once you’ve determined that you’re in a mutually sharing and trusting relationship.
— Understand that your needs and feelings are separate, and can be different, from those of other people.
— Don’t disempower yourself by allowing other people to make decisions for you. Take responsibility for your own decisions.
— You need to feel comfortable setting your boundary, otherwise you’ll find it difficult enforcing the boundary.
— Be clear about what your boundary is, or it will be difficult to communicate your boundary to others.
— Be firm when communicating your boundary. If you try to avoid a possible conflict or spare someone’s feelings, you’ll sound vague and unsure.
— Convey your message in a calm tone. If you show anger or too much aggression, your message may not be heard or received well.
— Don’t give long explanations because it implies that there’s something wrong with what you’re saying.
— Address any breaches of your boundary sooner rather than later.
— Start off with firm boundaries which can be loosened or tightened up based on the circumstances.
Difficulties Enforcing Boundaries
You are responsible for communicating your boundary in a clear and respectful way. You are not responsible for how someone reacts to the boundary.
It may be difficult to enforce boundaries because a fear of confrontation, rejection, or abandonment. However, someone who consistently pushes or who doesn’t respect your boundaries can be a red flag that someone isn’t safe or could become abusive. Trust your instincts if someone consistently makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Learning to set appropriate and healthy boundaries takes time if this is a new experience for you. Surround yourself with people who respect your right to set boundaries and limit your exposure to people who don’t. Most likely, people who don’t respect your boundaries aren’t thinking about your needs or how pushing the limits of your boundaries affects you.