Many people have heard of boundaries but few know how to use them. As a result, people are unsure of why they should set, how to set, and how to enforce boundaries. If this sounds like you, you are in luck. We have created this five-minute guide so that you can learn the basics of healthy boundary setting. Read on to find out more.
Boundaries: What Are They?
Boundaries are imaginary fences that separate your space, feelings, and needs from that of someone else. The purpose of boundaries is to have fair rules for engagement in relationships. As a result, you and the relationship are both healthier and happier.
Though the name “boundaries” may sound like a rigid separation between you and another person, good boundaries are often flexible and promote more fulfilling relationships. If boundaries are not flexible, they can drive people away and cause resentment. For this reason, boundaries should be flexible.
- Protects your well-being
- Acts as rules of engagement for your relationships
- Negotiation between two or more people
There are different types of boundaries that apply to specific situations. Here are the six types of boundaries:
- Material boundaries are boundaries that relate to your physical property, such as a car or a book. They determine how you interact, lend, or sell your property.
- Physical boundaries relate to your space, privacy, and body. They determine things like who you feel comfortable hugging or how loud you want your roommate to play their music.
- Mental boundaries relate to your thoughts, values, and opinions. They allow you to not get angry whenever someone disagrees with you.
- Emotional boundaries distinguish your emotions from someone else’s emotions and force you to take responsibility for your emotions.
- Sexual boundaries allow you to feel comfortable and safe during sexual touches and activities. They determine what, where, when, and with whom you have sexual interactions.
- Spiritual boundaries involve your beliefs in God or another higher power. They also determine how you interact with people of different beliefs.
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Benefits of Setting Boundaries
There are a number of positive benefits of setting boundaries. Let us check out a few.
Boundaries are a great way to keep relationships from becoming unsafe or uncomfortable. As a result, boundaries pull people together instead of pushing them apart.
At the same time, boundaries boost self-esteem because they require you to make yourself a priority. When you make yourself a priority, your self-esteem naturally increases.
Conserves emotional energy
Throughout the day, your emotional energy can dwindle until you feel as though you have no energy left. Boundaries are a great way to conserve emotional energy. The reason for this is that boundaries are designed to create space for you to care for yourself first and foremost.
Allows you to be your most authentic self
Additionally, boundaries allow you to be your most authentic self. The reason for this is that boundaries require you to prioritize your desires and needs. As a result, you become comfortable with who you really are without fear of pleasing someone else.
Set realistic expectations with clear directions
Boundaries set realistic expectations with clear directions for you and your loved ones. Oftentimes, fights happen because of a misunderstanding or differing expectations.
Signs You May Need More Boundaries
For many people, they are completely unaware that they need boundaries at all. As a result, they fail to put up boundaries but continue to live in a cycle of guilt, anxiety, and people-pleasing. Here are signs that you may need boundaries in your life:
You have tumultuous relationships
If you feel that your relationships are constantly difficult and dramatic, you may need boundaries in place. Without boundaries, relationships can get emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically or sexually overwhelming. The reason for this is that the relationship has no clear foundation for behavior do's and don'ts.
You do not like making decisions
If you have a very serious problem with making decisions in life, you may need boundaries. More specifically, you need boundaries if you cannot make decisions because you are more worried about what other people want than what you want.
You are a people-pleaser
If you spend your life living to please other people, you certainly need more boundaries. Though people-pleasing is not always bad, it is extremely dangerous to your wellbeing if it infringes on your life too much. If you are more worried about letting people down then letting yourself down, you need boundaries.
You feel guilty and anxious a lot
Do you ever feel guilty or anxious whenever someone else is not happy? If so, you may need to set boundaries for yourself and others. Guilt is healthy whenever you are clearly in the wrong, but you should not feel guilty or responsible for someone else's emotions or mistakes.
If you are new to creating boundaries, you might find setting boundaries to be awkward, uncomfortable, and difficult. If this is the case for you, you are not alone. Most people find setting boundaries extremely difficult at first because it takes a little bit of practice to get the hang of it. Here is how to set boundaries so that you can live a healthy and happy life.
Get The Right Motivation
The first step to setting healthy boundaries is to have the right motivation. Many people assume that boundaries are about controlling or constraining another person. This is simply not true. In contrast, setting boundaries is about self-respect and love. It is also about creating the healthiest relationships possible.
So, before defining your boundaries, make sure that you are only setting boundaries out of respect to yourself and your relationships. If you are setting boundaries in order to control someone, stop immediately, and work through whatever issues you are having. You should never want to control or constrain another person via your boundaries.
Once you have the right motivation for your boundaries, it is time to define what your boundaries entail. In other words, it is time to actually determine what your boundaries are and who they apply to. This step can be challenging and fun at the same time.
Begin by thinking about your rights and values in life. Your rights include the behavior and actions that you are entitled to receiving. They are also how you are entitled to respond to certain scenarios.
For example, you have a right to be treated with respect. You also have the right to say no without guilt or to hold someone accountable when they disrespect your boundaries.
Additionally, think about values. What values in life do you cherish the most? Are there any times that you feel your values are tarnished or disrespected?
Make note of those instances in your head.
Arguably, the most important aspect of setting boundaries is communicating them clearly and respectfully. If you do not communicate your boundaries, then people cannot possibly respect them. You must make those around you aware of your boundaries so that they can be held accountable to them.
The best way to communicate your boundaries is assertively but respectfully. You need to be assertive when describing or explaining your boundaries. Use “I” statements in order to make your communication more active and decrease the chances of the other party becoming defensive.
For example, say “I feel disrespected when …” instead of “You make me feel disrespected when…” by making the subject of the sentence “I,” you make the statement more active and take responsibility for your emotions.
In addition to being assertive, you need to be respectful to the other person. You are equally as important as them, not more important than them. For this reason, you need to speak with them respectfully and kindly. Not only are they entitled to this sort of communication, but it will also make them more likely to respect your boundaries in return.
If the other person truly cares about you, then they will probably try to respect your boundaries to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, there are instances when people may push back against your boundaries. People may push back when your boundaries contradict theirs or when they want to control you or the situation.
Here is what to do when you experience pushback:
The first step to responding to push back is being prepared for it. There are several ways that people may push back against your boundaries. It is important to be aware of what different pushback tactics look like.
One way that someone might push back against your boundaries is by trying to control you or the situation. When someone tries to control you, they may resist your boundary by physically challenging you, changing other people’s opinion of you, or anything else that results in controlling the situation.
Sometimes, controlling people may become dangerous or physically violent. In this scenario, remove yourself immediately and protect yourself.
Another way that someone might disrespect your boundary is by trying to intimidate you in order to get you to back off your boundary. This person might intimidate you by trying to make you feel as though you are being unreasonable. They can do this through gaslighting, arguing, or anything else that makes you feel that you are not worth respecting.
When someone is trying to intimidate you, remember to stand your ground and not back down. Keep in mind that you are not being unreasonable by expecting to be respected.
The third and most common way that people push back against boundaries is by guilting you into lessening your boundaries. This is by far the most frequent and effective push back method. When someone is trying to guilt you, remember that you have a right to your boundaries and that you should not feel guilty for respecting them.
What To Do
When you detect someone pushing back against your boundaries, there are a couple of things you can do. First, begin by restating your boundary and trying to explain why the boundary is there. Often, people push back against boundaries when they misunderstand the boundary or its purpose. Try to resolve any misunderstandings first.
If there are no misunderstandings and the person is still uncomfortable with your boundary, talk to them about it. There might be a very logical reason as to why they do not want to respect your boundary. Try to learn how they are feeling just as you would want them to learn how you are feeling.
From there, see if there is a way to come to a compromise. As we have discussed, boundaries do not need to be rigid. See if there is any wiggle room for both parties. Often, people will respond positively to the idea of a compromise because it shows that you are respecting yourself and them at the same time.
If you and the other person are unable to come to a compromise, then do not remove your boundary. Simply enforce whatever consequence you've decided for that boundary and move on with your life.
As we have seen, boundaries are a great way to keeping you and your relationships happy and healthy. As you are setting your boundaries, remember to be patient with yourself and those around you. It will take a bit to learn the best ways to enforce boundaries, and it will take a bit for people to learn your boundaries.
Just remember to be kind and respectful to yourself and those around you. If you do these things, you are bound to make healthy and successful boundaries.