Updated: Jan 6
'Boundaries' are essential for productive healthy relationships within our personal life, in the home, the workplace, anywhere you need to 'relate' with another person, whether it's your Auntie Beryl, your life partner or the post person, you need to set your own personnel boundaries.
What are boundaries?
Personal boundaries are physical, emotional and mental guidelines, rules or limits that a person establishes to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them, in order to keep them safe, and how they will respond when someone passes those limits. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others, most of us will have similar boundaries, and some of them will be unique to ourselves, our very own 'owners manual' if you like, however the manual can be written and re written over our lives and tends not to be written but verbalised.
Most of the time, people are not trying to violate your boundaries - they just aren't aware of what they are!
Essentially - if we do not know what our 'line' is not to be crossed and tell others, how do others know if they are crossing the line or not?
How to set boundaries
Take a look at the following examples of 6 'types' of boundaries, I have given some examples under the main types of boundaries that you may or may not believe apply to you, take some time to explore what your beliefs and philosophies are around these boundary types, what do you feel is or isn't acceptable for you. Explore how each boundary type makes you feel, my general rule is that if you have a strong feeling towards something, if it makes you feel anxious or uncomfortable then it may be a boundary to set for you; remember the feeling should be about how 'you' feel and not how it would make you feel to set the boundary or how setting the boundary could make someone else feel.
1) Physical Boundaries
Your physical boundaries are important to your well-being and include your personal space, they are taking care of you physically, and include limits such as whether you want to be touched (maybe hugged) by people (or animals), and basic survival needs like needing to relax, to eat food and to drink water.
Your physical boundaries may be things like:
"Thank you for inviting me to dinner, I want to let you know beforehand that I am vegetarian so I wont eat anything with meat in, I am happy to bring my own food if you would prefer".
"I do not want to kiss on our first date".
"Please don't go into the lounge, I'm working in there and don't want anything disturbed".
"I will need to get a glass of water before this meeting, I'm dehydrated"
2) Emotional Boundaries
Your emotional boundaries take care of your emotional well-being, your feelings and your energy, in essence they keep you emotionally 'safe'.
Your emotional boundaries may be things like:
"I'm sorry you're having a bad day and want to talk but I'm dealing with a lot myself at the moment"
"When you keep criticising me it makes me feel sad .... please stop or I will not be able to spend time with you"
"I know I am expected to be 'open' and share my emotional story, but now is not the time as I may feel overwhelmed and do not feel supported with that"
3) Time Boundaries
Time boundaries are important because your time is valuable, because you are valuable, your time boundaries ensure that you are valuing yourself and setting your time boundaries for others means that you expect them to value you too.
Time boundaries may include things like:
"If you're not going to make it next week could you please let me know by Friday so that I can make other plans"
"I can't come on a date with this weekend as I have to study for an exam on Monday that is really important to me"
"I will be there but I have to leave at 8pm"
"Because you're late I can not see you for this session as I need the full hour"
4) Sexual Boundaries
Our sexual boundaries are set by us to ensure that our sexual experiences are not only enjoyable but consensual, safe, and that their is respect for our preferences and privacy.
Our sexual boundaries may include things like:
"Please do not tell anyone about the particular thing that I like sexually"
"I don't want to have sex with you until we are in a relationship"
"I am not comfortable having sex now as I'm feeling ...."
5) Intellectual Boundaries
Our intellect covers our thoughts, imagination, knowledge and ideas, and the way we choose to respect the intellectual part of ourselves is by setting our intellectual boundaries. You do not have to consider yourself an 'intellectual' to set these boundaries, the term can also refer to your creative skills or great knowledge of sports, whatever your mind has it's precious and deserves protecting.
Our intellectual boundaries may include things like:
"I feels as though you are not interested in my opinion"
"We have different opinions on the subject and that's ok"
"If I don't always contribute it could be that I am listening & thinking"
6) Material Boundaries
The material things in our lives are the possessions we own that we have bought with our hard earned cash or have been gifted to us, we set material boundaries to let people know how we would like our material things treated by ourselves and those whom we share them with.
Our material boundaries may include things like:
"I can't let you borrow that dress, it's my favourite"
"Yes you can stay in my apartment, just leave it as you find it"
"Donating to your charity is not in my budget right now, I'm happy to give you some time if that helps"
Do you find any of the above boundary statements 'strict' or 'harsh', 'rude' or asking too much of others? If so It may be that you have issues around boundaries.
For some people setting the boundaries that are true to them can be challenging, perhaps you were raised without boundaries within relationships or were not challenged when you have broken other peoples boundaries or do not have confidence in setting boundaries for others. With self exploration around knowing what your boundaries are and building the confidence to voice your boundaries, which you can practise on your own or with the help of a therapist, you will find your relationships becoming healthier and stronger, as not only are you letting people know how you want to be treated you are giving yourself self respect, this in turn teaches others to respect you and to respect themselves too!
Setting boundaries is not just about your well-being, they also show others that you care about their well-being, for example setting boundaries for children, we may expect a child to do their homework, tidy their room or go to bed at a certain time, these boundaries do not make you 'strict' or 'controlling' they show the child that you care about their school life, mental health and living conditions, the child then understands that they are loved which increases self esteem and resilience, they learn that life has boundaries and how to live within them; studies have shown that children raised without boundaries within the home are much more likely to join 'group's outside of the home in order to feel that love, in extreme cases involvement in drug 'gangs'.
Psychotherapy can help you to explore your boundaries, and help you to gain the confidence in setting boundaries for yourself.
Contact me for a free initial telephone consultation here