Editor’s Note: The following article is written by a counseling professional from Counseling Services in partnership with the Southern Accent.
Written by: Kim Daniel
Boundaries define where something (or someone) begins and ends. Boundaries can be physical, intellectual or emotional. Physical boundaries can include limiting physical contact with others. Intellectual boundaries can include boundaries set regarding your time. An example is saying “no” when an employer asks you to take on an additional work project. Emotional boundaries include setting limits regarding the emotional weight that we can take on.
When we create healthy boundaries, we are investing in our own identity. Boundaries can place clear guidelines that define the responsibilities we will accept. For example, communicating a boundary regarding unwanted sexual advances places a specific line that the other individual can acknowledge.
Setting healthy boundaries is a crucial component of self-care. That’s because poor boundaries lead to resentment, anger and burnout. Boundary issues can involve those we need to set for ourselves but also others’ boundaries that we may not be observing with care. Boundaries keep relationships safe and healthy. They help us understand what proximity to others is healthy for us and them.
When we feel that something is unfair, frustrating or hurtful, many times that is a sign that we need to create or change our boundaries.
During the process of setting boundaries, it is important to remember that you are not responsible for other people’s reaction to the boundary you are setting. You are only responsible for communicating your boundary in a respectful manner. Their reaction to your boundary setting is their responsibility, and the way in which we set those boundaries and communicate them is ours.
Remember, your behavior must match the boundaries you are setting. You cannot successfully establish a clear boundary if you send mixed messages.
Don’t let anxiety, fear or guilt prevent you from taking care of yourself. Setting boundaries takes practice and determination. Listen to yourself. Determine what you need to do or say, then communicate assertively. Learning to set healthy boundaries takes time, and is a process. Set them in your own time frame, not when someone else tells you.
Develop a support system of people who respect your right to set boundaries, and make sure you are also respecting and listening to their boundaries as well.
While setting boundaries is a process that takes time, it is well worth it. Boundaries create space for us to have healthy limits and self-care. When setting new boundaries, it is important to stay firm but committed to creating healthy space in your life to thrive and grow.
How to set a boundary:
- Define: Identify the desired boundary.
- Communicate: Say what you need.
- Stay simple: Don’t overexplain.
- Set consequences: State why it is important.