What are boundaries?
Guidelines, limits, or rules that you create that are reasonable and safe for other people to behave around you. Basically, boundaries are rules and principles you live by.
Having boundaries helps you define your individuality by separating your desires, needs, thoughts, and feelings from those of other people. They differentiate you from everyone else and teach people how to treat you.
What do boundaries look like?
There are four categories of boundaries: body, feeling, thinking and behavior.
Some examples of boundaries:
- Asking before approaching someone
- Asking before touching someone (hugging, etc.)
- Not loaning your belongings
- What you want people to call you
- Identifying your pronouns and asking people to refer to you in those pronouns
- Not discussing politics
- Taking calls during certain hours of the day only
- Setting aside time for yourself without interruption (emergencies notwithstanding)
- Leaving a situation that feels unsafe
Why do I need boundaries?
Boundaries protect you and help you feel safe in relationships. They help you determine what you choose to reject when something is potentially harmful to you. Boundaries are hard.
Why is setting boundaries so hard?
Setting boundaries is learned. You may have grown up in an environment where your wishes were not honored and your voice was not heard, which could be impacting your ability to speak up for yourself.
Maybe you are so used to putting others’ feelings and needs before your own, or you don’t feel like you have the right to draw a line in the sand. Or you learned that speaking your mind will jeopardize your relationships with others.
Boundaries are also difficult to set if you are angry or want to punish someone. It is important that they come from a place of self-awareness as to what you are willing to “put up” with. Having them in place allows you to have more self-love and builds self-esteem (hyperlink to self-esteem page).
It is a delicate balance to set boundaries that don’t alienate you from others but also protect you from being hurt, and therapy can help you identify the differences between healthy and unhealthy boundaries.