What are boundaries?
Boundaries are rules and limits we set for ourselves and others. They tell and show others acceptable ways of communicating, interacting, and behaving with you. Think of it like a ‘no trespassing’ sign on a property line– that is a clear sign that once you cross the boundary/line, there will be consequences. While a no trespassing sign for a property line is easy to understand when we see it, creating our own personal boundaries can be more challenging. That’s because personal boundaries are invisible, changing, and unique to each individual. Even though it might be challenging, they are important to create because they define where you end and others begin.
What types of boundaries do people have?
Healthy: A person with healthy boundaries is able to say “no” when they want to but they are comfortable opening themselves up to relationships and intimacy. There is value in their own opinions and they don’t compromise their values for others. They share information in an appropriate way and know their wants and needs. They are capable of communicating those wants and needs and are okay with others saying “no” to them.
Rigid: A person with rigid boundaries always keeps others at a distance, whether that is emotionally or physically. Intimacy and close relationships are avoided. They are very protective of personal information and are unlikely to ask for help. They may seem detached from others and may do this to avoid the possibility of rejection.
Loose: A person with loose boundaries gets too involved with others. There is oversharing personal information, difficulty saying no to others, and getting over involved in the problems of others. They are also dependent on others’ opinions and accept abuse or disrespect. They fear rejection if they do not do what others want.
What are different types of boundaries?
There are many different types of boundaries that you may come across. Some types include:
Physical boundaries: People with healthy physical boundaries are aware of appropriate touch in various settings and relationships. For example, when greeting someone new, you likely give them a handshake. We are keenly aware of when someone invades our physical boundaries– think about a close talker who continues to move towards you after you try to create more space by backing away. Someone can also violate our physical boundaries by going through our phones, emails, journals, etc.
Intellectual boundaries: this refers to thoughts and ideas. Healthy intellectual boundaries include respect for others’ ideas and awareness of appropriate discussion (e.g., when it is appropriate to talk about politics).
Emotional boundaries: Healthy emotional boundaries involve knowing when to share, or not to share, personal information. For example, people with healthy boundaries share personal information gradually as a relationship develops. Someone with loose emotional boundaries might reveal everything to people right away, while someone with rigid boundaries might never share their feelings.
Material boundaries: This refers to money and possessions. Someone with healthy material boundaries will set appropriate limits on what they will share and with whom they will share. For example, you will probably let a family member stay the night at your house, but probably don’t want to let a stranger sleep over.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
It is empowering to set healthy boundaries– it helps you maintain self-respect and enjoy healthy relationships. On the other hand, unhealthy boundaries can lead to dependency, depression, and anxiety.
The first step in boundary setting is to examine your relationships and places where you can adjust your boundaries. If you feel anger or resentment towards someone or something, it is probably time to set a boundary. When setting boundaries, try to be clear, firm, and respectful and avoid apologizing for the boundary you are setting. You are not responsible for how the other person reacts; you are only responsible for being respectful when communicating your boundaries. If you feel guilty or selfish, do it anyway. You have the right to self-care! If someone continues to ignore the boundary you set, perhaps it is time to eliminate those people from your life.
Boundary setting is just one step towards resilience. At TLC-VR, we will equip you with more skills and tools to improve your relationships and your life!