Boundaries are one of those things that are often misunderstood. It’s sometimes hard to set boundaries in a relationship, at work, or in any relationship.
Sometimes it feels like you’ve let someone down, but in reality, no one is more important than you, and no one needs your boundaries more than you do
Boundaries are something you set up to make sure other people can’t cross certain lines, and you’ve room to breathe and take care of yourself. The basic concept of “boundaries” may seem simple, but how it’s implemented can be quite complex for some. Life is about balance, and it can be challenging to find a healthy balance between what others need, what others want from us, and what we want for ourselves.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
In a nutshell, boundaries are about defining your own space. They let you know what you need and what you don’t need, what you want and what you don’t want. This can be as simple as knowing when it’s time to end a conversation or as complex as knowing when it’s time to end an unhealthy relationship.
Setting boundaries isn’t about being rude or aggressive; it’s about protecting yourself from the effects of other people’s behavior and expectations. Setting healthy boundaries isn’t about always saying no, but about making sure that the needs of others don’t take precedence over your own needs – and vice versa.
Respecting Others and Yourself
Respecting others and yourself is a two-way street. It means that you should respect other people’s boundaries but also be aware of your own needs and values so that you can set appropriate boundaries for yourself.
Respect Is a Choice, Not Something That’s Given to You
It takes practice to build healthy relationships with others (and ourselves). Still, the process is worth it because, ultimately, we’re all responsible for our happiness and well-being in life – no one can make us happy or fulfilled unless we want it ourselves.
Respect Isn’t Just About What You Say But How You Say It
You have the right to set boundaries that make sense for you and your life situation – but remember that respecting other people’s boundaries means communicating those boundaries calmly and not harshly or aggressively (or passive-aggressively). When addressing someone whose behavior makes us uncomfortable, try saying things like, “I feel overwhelmed by all the time we’ve been spending together lately,” rather than “You keep hanging out with me!”
Why Some People Cross Boundaries
Some people are just pushy, rude, and careless. They mean no harm, but they often do more harm than good.
When people cross boundaries, they don’t know any better. They were never taught that there are certain things you shouldn’t do OK when dealing with other people or their property.
They May Not Be Unintentionally Selfish or Disrespectful, but Their Actions Can Come Across That Way
Boundaries are usually crossed because of immaturity and insecurity. When people don’t feel secure in themselves or their relationship with others, they may try to overcome that insecurity by crossing boundaries to feel more powerful or important than the other person (or thing).
The stronger the foundation of your identity, the less likely you’re to cross other people’s boundaries.
What Happens When You Don’t Set Boundaries
In an ideal world, we’d all be able to give and receive freely. We’d be able to ask for help when we need it and offer help when others need it. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
If You Don’t Set a Clear Boundary, You Can Feel Like a Doormat
You may feel like others are taking advantage of you and that you’re always giving more than you’re getting. This is especially true when it comes to family and friends.
The reason we often don’t set boundaries with family and friends is to avoid conflict or hurt feelings – but at what cost? When we don’t set healthy boundaries, it can lead to resentment toward those who’ve taken advantage of us and to being emotionally unavailable.
For example, let’s say your parent or sibling calls you every day because she needs something from you or wants to talk about her problems – even though she knows it bothers you because she calls every day anyway. You could try explaining to her how this makes you feel (e.g., “Mom, I love talking to you, but I need some time to myself during the day”), but she probably won’t stop calling unless she gets some consequence for it.
Setting Emotional Boundaries Can Also Mean That You Just Don’t Pick Up the Phone When It’s Not Convenient for You
If you decide when you want to talk (e.g., when to call back), you’ll save yourself stress and time and avoid being distracted from what’s important (e.g., important work, romantic relationship, having fun with your friends, etc.) when she calls.
Healthy personal boundaries are also important for your personal development and your mental health, whether you need to set them with a family member, personal relationships, or strangers, especially if they’ve boundary issues of their own.
Setting personal boundaries is hard at first, but once others understand where the limit is with you, they’ll eventually adjust when ready to have a reciprocal relationship.
If this isn’t the case, you should ask yourself if you want this person in your everyday personal life and perhaps see a therapist to help you work out your values and help you with your relationship boundaries.
When a Line Has Been Crossed
If you sense someone is trying to take advantage of you, manipulate you, or abuse you, it’s time to set healthy emotional boundaries.
A boundary is a limit on a person’s behavior that they’ve decided and communicated to others to avoid being abused or taken advantage of. It can mean the following:
- You feel the other person is lying about what they do and/or say (half-truths) when they confront you about something.
- The other person is trying to isolate you or control your access to others so that only he/she has access.
- You feel the other person is manipulative, e.g., promising you something but not keeping it later, changing plans without checking with others first, etc.
- You feel that this person doesn’t care about your needs/wants (e.g., their actions contradict their words).
Poor Boundaries Are Unhealthy Boundaries
They get you no further than where you’re now. That’s why our well-being and mental health need to set clear and healthy personal boundaries.
Knowing what you want and what you don’t want
Many people don’t know what they want in a healthy relationship or how they want to be treated, so they settle for less than what would make them truly happy. This can lead to resentment and other conflicts.
Knowing what you don’t want is another important part of setting boundaries because it helps you focus on the things that matter most to you-for example, your values and morals-rather than worrying about everything else. If someone’s behavior doesn’t align with your beliefs, that person shouldn’t be involved in your life.
Set Boundaries at Work
Setting boundaries at work is a great way to protect yourself from the dangers that lurk in any office or workplace. If you don’t set boundaries, you risk being taken advantage of and feeling used. You could also develop health problems like stress and depression because your body can’t handle being pushed so hard all the time.
A time boundary at work is about setting limits on how much time and energy you’re willing to spend on a particular task; it’s about saying “no” when someone asks for more than that limit allows; it’s about making sure you get enough rest and recovery so your body can recover from the demands of your job; it’s about acknowledging that there are others who need attention, too – your family, your friends, your colleagues – and making room in your schedule so that they get some, too (even if that sometimes means taking less time off work).
Set a Boundary With Someone
Setting a boundary with someone can be very difficult. You may feel like you’re being selfish or that you’re not getting what you want or need. But there are some ways to make it easier:
Say Exactly What the Boundary Is – and Why It’s Important to You
Saying, “I need some space right now. Can we take a break?” is more effective than saying, “Can’t we just be together less often?” If possible, give a specific example of how the behavior in question has affected you.
Explain how much time and distance are needed for your boundaries to be respected or restored (if they were violated). If someone asks if they can see their ex-partner again after a recent breakup, it means their current partner didn’t set enough boundaries for their relationship with their ex-partner – and may still have feelings for them!
Use as few words as possible when explaining your boundaries for maximum impact and effectiveness; try to use no more than two sentences per person per day, without making sure there’s enough time to process between each sentence. Once people know what needs to be addressed in their own lives and relationships, they’ll be better off knowing where those boundaries are; keep in mind, however, that one person may need more time than another to understand where those boundaries are because everyone has different experiences that lead them to different conclusions about these things.”
Setting a Boundary With Yourself
Setting a boundary with yourself is the most important step in setting boundaries with others. It’s also the most difficult step because it requires having difficult conversations with yourself and admitting things that you may not want to admit – even if they’re true.
The First Step Is Knowing What Your Boundaries Are, What You Can and Can’t Stand
For example, when I was younger and had just moved out of my parents’ house to go to college, I decided that I wanted an apartment that was just mine: no roommates or romantic partners, complete privacy for as long as possible, and enough money to pay the rent every month without worry. These were all things that were important to me at the time (and still are), so I put limits on them – I’d lived in shared apartments before, but now I wanted my place so badly that I’d do anything to get it!
Identify what matters most to you:
- What does “enough” look like to you?
- Is it enough money?
- Enough space?
- A certain amount of time to yourself alone in the day?
Once these boundaries are known (and adhered to), we can move on to other types of personal boundaries
Stick to Your Goals
Setting boundaries means sticking to your goals. If you want to lose weight and your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to take you out for ice cream, it’s okay to tell him or her you can’t go.
You have a goal, and spending time eating ice cream won’t help you reach that goal. This may be hard at first, but it’ll get easier over time as you realize how much more effective it’s to set boundaries than to keep giving in!
If you’re having a hard time staying motivated or sticking with things like exercising or eating healthy, think about what’ll help motivate you and keep doing it until those actions become a habit! It’s okay if these changes take a while; don’t give up!
The hardest part is getting started, so do something small every day until it becomes second nature to you – and then keep going!
Don’t Compare Yourself
Comparing yourself to others only leads to negative thoughts about yourself. It makes it much harder to succeed on both an emotional and practical level (because no one deserves anything but happiness). Instead of comparing ourselves to others or feeling bad about not being “perfect,” we should focus on loving ourselves right where we’re now and working every day to become a better version of ourselves without giving up hope.
The Difference Between Control and Setting Boundaries
A boundary is a line between what you do for others and what you do for yourself.
Controlling Is About Power and Control – Your Agenda, Your Vision, Your Way of Doing Things
Controllers have no interest in hearing or considering the ideas or beliefs of others. They demand obedience because they believe their needs are more important than others. When it comes to setting boundaries with a controller, you’re often asked to pretend that your thoughts and feelings don’t matter at all!
Boundaries Are About Respect
respect yourself first by being aware of your needs, and then respect the other person by communicating them honestly and clearly so they can take them into account when making decisions that affect both parties equally.
If You’re Going to Set Boundaries, You Must Know What They Are
When you’re clear about your boundaries, you can keep them even under pressure or doubt. It also means you can recognize when someone crosses one of your boundaries (whether intentionally or unintentionally) without getting angry or upset.
If Something Changes in Your Life That Affects How Far You Stray From the Boundary, You Should Adjust It Accordingly!
The most important thing is that you know where that boundary is.
When we think about our boundaries and desires, it’s often hard to imagine where others’ boundaries lie – especially if they’re loved ones or close friends who’ve been an important part of our lives for years. It’s important not only to set healthy boundaries but also to respect the boundaries of others. After all, treating others with kindness helps both parties feel respected and cared for in the long run!
Boundaries are a sign of self-respect and are important for good mental health. If you’ve never thought about what boundaries you need in your life, maybe it’s time to think about them now. Think about your boundaries and how you can set them so that other people will respect them too!
Professional Health and Well-being for Psychologists – American Psychological Association
How To Set Boundaries With TOXIC People – Sharon Martin, LCSW