What is a boundary?
A boundary is an invisible line that can be created by an individual to determine what behaviors from others are acceptable to them. This boundary can be physical or emotional depending on the context and person(s) they are creating this boundary with.
Other types of boundaries can differ depending on the relationship and can include:
After looking at the different types of boundaries above:
- What are some boundaries that stick out to you the most?
- What areas in your life do you feel these could be applied to?
- What specific relationships are coming to mind when you look at these boundaries?
The importance of knowing the different kind of boundaries there are is for you to discern what behaviors you deem acceptable and appropriate in all areas of your life.
Asking ourselves these kinds of questions is the first step to identifying a relationship in our life that we may need to implement a boundary with. Once we have these relationships identified we can move on to the next step which is, setting the boundary itself.
Preparation for setting a boundary
Setting a boundary might sound intimidating, especially if you have never set one before or have struggled with assertively communicating your needs in the past. However once done, it can be freeing and self-validating. Healthy boundaries are not only the key to successful relationships, but a form of self-care that only we can initiate.
“Setting boundaries not only defines the relationships we have in our lives, but most importantly, the relationship we have with ourselves.”
The first step to setting a boundary is to believe you are worthy of setting this boundary to begin with. A possible reason that we are feeling the need to set a boundary is because we are feeling an uneven balance of reciprocation and or respect from the other party. Although we may have love and care for these people, we have to respect ourselves in order to believe we are deserving of this respect to begin with.
The uncomfortable reality with boundary settingis that even with knowing you are deserving of this boundary, the reaction from the other people we are setting this boundary with is out of our control. Although this can be a very uncomfortable process to initiate, continuing to ignore this feeling can lead to resentment, disappointment, and or violation. Here are ways you can communicate your boundary effectively and safely:
Tips for communicating your boundary:
Be as calm and clear as possible. We don’t have to raise our voice to get the message across.
State directly what it is that you don’t like. You can use “I” statements to do this. Ex: “I feel embarrassed when you make jokes about the way I speak. Please don’t make any more jokes about my voice or accent.”
Allow yourself to feel all the different emotions that may come from setting this boundary which can be; guilt, shame, or regret. These are all valid and understandable emotions if you have been made to feel bad for advocating for yourself in the past.
I set my boundary, now what?
“Boundaries need to be communicated first verbally and then with actions.”- Henry Cloud
Consistency and communication are the two keys to uphold a boundary that you have set. Don’t let the anticipation of finally asserting your boundary distract you from the continued work ahead. We may have to remind this person(s) a few times before they are fully aware of our expectations. I like to think of a boundary as a law for your own personal country. You’re the only person in charge of your country and therefore, the only one that can implement this law. If you don’t consistently advocate for yourself, then who else will?
If you notice that maintaining the boundaries you have set are more difficult than you expected or were prepared for, it’s fair to further process where this hesitancy is coming from.
Examples of questions you can ask yourself if you are struggling with boundary setting:
What do I feel I need to do in order to gain respect from someone?
Do I believe I deserve this respect or that I need to earn it?
What am I worried will happen if I reiterate my boundary with this person(s)?
If I say no to this person(s) what I am worried they will think of me?
What is it about this boundary that is not feeling good to me?
What are your expectations for the relationships in your life?
Boundaries are meant to help you and should always be something that is bettering you and your relationships. It’s important to separate feeling guilty for setting the boundary versus the actual boundary itself. If the confrontation is unsettling but the aftermath is rewarding, you’ve set a boundary and should be proud!
What to remember
First thing first, it’s okay for this to be difficult. There are times where reiterating your boundary will feel like an unnecessary chore. But it’s important to remember that boundaries have a purpose and are designed to keep our mental health protected as much as possible.
If you are noticing a particular relationship is more difficult to set a boundary with compared to others, it’s helpful to ask yourself why you think that is. Boundary setting can unveil difficult truths about pre-existing relationships that may lead us to re-think if this is a healthy relationship for us.
Remember that although this can be challenging, creating healthy boundaries is very rewarding! There are so many pros in doing so and you can find yourself feeling closer, safer, and more energized in your relationships than ever before.
“Setting limits won’t disrupt a healthy relationship.” – Nedra Glover Tawwab