Have you defined boundaries in your life?

Do you ever feel like people take advantage of you or use your emotions for their own gain?

Do you ever feel like you’re constantly having to “save” people close to you and fix their problems all the time?

Do you find yourself sucked into pointless fighting or debating regularly?

Do you find yourself far more invested or attracted to a person than you should be for how long you’ve known them?

In your relationships, does it feel like things are always either amazing or horrible with no in-between? Or perhaps you even go through the break-up/reunion pattern every few months?

Do you tell people how much you hate drama but seem to always be stuck in the middle of it?

Do you spend a lot of time defending yourself for things you believe aren’t your fault?

If you answered “yes” to even a few of the above, then you probably set and maintain poor boundaries in your relationships. If you answered a resounding “yes” to most or all of the items above, you not only have a major boundary problem in your relationships but you also probably have some other personal problems going on in your life.

Boundaries for your well-being

Setting boundaries is an important part of establishing one’s identity and is a crucial aspect of mental health and well-being. Learning to set healthy personal boundaries is necessary for maintaining a positive self-concept, or self-image. It is our way of communicating to others that we have self-respect, self-worth, and will not allow others to define us.

Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others. Their presence helps us express ourselves as the unique individuals we are, while we acknowledge the same in others.

It would not be possible to enjoy healthy relationships without the existence of personal boundaries, or without our willingness to communicate them directly and honestly with others. We must recognize that each of us is a unique individual with distinct emotions, needs and preferences. This is equally true for our spouses, children and friends.

To set personal boundaries means to preserve your integrity, take responsibility for who you are, and to take control of your life. Self-care, which can include setting boundaries, is an important part of leading a mentally healthy life. But unlike more intuitive aspects of self-care like healthy eating and exercise, setting healthy boundaries isn’t something most people understand. For more people to experience greater well-being and fulfilment, they must learn about healthy boundaries.

This leads to the question, ‘What do healthy boundaries look like?’

The types of boundaries one might set depends on the setting. That is, one person’s healthy boundaries with a romantic partner will be very different from that same person’s healthy boundaries with a boss or co-worker.

Examine the boundaries that exist

The first part of setting boundaries is examining the boundaries that already exist (or are lacking) in one’s life. For example, a woman might decide that she has healthy boundaries with her romantic partner, but not with her friends and co-workers. From there, she can decide what types of boundaries she wants to set with her friends and co-workers.

Another important thing to remember is that it is impossible to set boundaries without setting consequences. This means that when setting boundaries, it is important to explicitly state why they are important. For example, a person in an unhealthy relationship might declare that his partner needs to start respecting his career goals if his partner wants to continue being in a relationship with him. It is also crucial to only declare consequences that one is willing to follow through on, or else the boundaries will not be effective.

In general, the key to setting boundaries is first figuring out what you want from your various relationships, setting boundaries based on those desires, and then being clear with yourself and with other people about your boundaries.

The importance of Boundaries in relationships

“When one person is in control of another, love cannot grow deeply and fully, as there is no freedom.” In other words, healthy boundaries can be the difference between a healthy, happy relationship and a toxic, dysfunctional relationship.

A lack of boundaries can lead to an unhealthy relationship because one partner may feel that he or she has no privacy anymore. However, too many boundaries can also be an issue, as in the case of people who refuse to spend time with the friends and families of their partners.

In the case of people in relationships who also have children, boundaries can be particularly important. The fact that boundaries are important in relationships underscores the importance of setting and respecting boundaries.

The process of setting boundaries

Make a list of boundaries you would like to strengthen. Write them down. Visualize yourself setting them and finally, assertively communicate with others what your boundaries are and when they’ve crossed them. Remember, this is a process. Start with a small, non-threatening boundary and experience success before taking on more challenging boundaries.

Boundaries to start with:

·        Say no – to tasks you don’t want to do or don’t have time to do.

·        Say yes – to help.

·        Say thank you with no apology, regret or shame.

·        Ask for help.

·        Delegate tasks.

·        Protect your time – don’t overcommit.

·        Ask for space – we all need our own time.

·        Speak up if you feel uncomfortable with how someone is treating you or your needs are being infringed upon.

·        Honour what is important to you by choosing to put yourself first.

·        Drop the guilt and responsibility for others.

·        Share personal information gradually and in a mutual way (give and take).

Good boundaries are a sign of emotional health, self-respect and strength. We teach people how to treat us. Set high standards for those you surround yourself with. Expect to be treated in the same loving way you treat them. You will soon find yourself surrounded by those who respect you, care about your needs and your feelings and treat you with kindness.

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