Boundaries are often misconstrued as something that keeps people out of our lives, but the truth is: establishing healthy boundaries is what strengthens our relationships. It allows us to take responsibility for our own behaviors, and to let others do the same.
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with. We must own our own thoughts and clarify distorted thinking.”
― Henry Cloud
There are a few different types of boundaries we want to dig into:1. Physical/Body
This is the easiest type of boundary to understand. It relates to our personal space, and the power we have over our own bodies. Everyone has different levels of comfort when it comes to physical boundaries – some people are huggers, kissers and hand-holders, while other people do not like to be touched by others at all (especially in public).
When your physical boundaries are crossed, it can feel like you don’t have ownership over your own body. This can range in severity, but is one of the most basic acts of abuse when taken too far.
Please note that if you or anyone you know is being physically abused, help is always available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Their phone number is 800-799-7233, or you could simply text START to 88788.
Physical boundaries are also related to taking care of your physical needs like needing rest, food or water. Some examples of ways to implement your physical boundaries are:
- “I’m not a big hugger. I’m more of a handshake person”
- “I don’t want you to touch me like that.”
- “I feel tired. I am going to rest for a little while.”
- “I am allergic to ___, so I can’t have that in my home.”
- “I’m hungry. I’m going to get something to eat.”
- “If my door is closed, knock before walking in.”
Our feelings are our bodies signaling to us how we are doing. They are like the “check engine” light in our cars. When we feel angry or sad about something, that is our body signaling to us that something isn’t right. This gives us an opportunity to pinpoint what is going on and make whatever changes that are necessary to improve our situation. It is important for us to remember that we are responsible for our own feelings, and it is also important for us to remember that we are not responsible for the feelings of others.
This doesn’t mean it’s okay to be hurtful on purpose, but it does mean that you shouldn’t let someone else’s feelings keep you from doing what you believe to be right. When we neglect our own feelings and take on the responsibility of others, we are crossing both our own boundaries and theirs. It is when we take ownership over our own feelings, and are able to stay honest with others that we are capable of creating meaningful relationships with depth.
Have you ever had someone ask you to borrow money? Or have you been asked out to fancy dinners, bachelor/bachelorette parties, or other social events that you did not have the budget for? When we decline these offers to protect our financial assets, we are setting a healthy boundary. Financial health looks different to everyone but remember to not feel guilty when you are protecting yours. Also, if you are planning your next birthday trip to Cabo – don’t take it personally if a friend or a relative has to decline your invitation.
Intellectual boundaries include our thoughts and beliefs. When we own our own thoughts, we are establishing our own identity. We have a right to believe in what we choose, and a right to change our minds when we choose. We cross this boundary when we take responsibility for someone else’s thoughts or dismiss them altogether.
It’s important to remember that establishing healthy boundaries is an act of kindness. If doing this is something you have not put thought into before, it might not feel that way at first. It might be uncomfortable to speak up for yourself when you feel like your boundaries are being crossed, or to not be available to a friend when you are in the middle of your own crisis. The truth is: people who love you will want to know when you are feeling hurt or overwhelmed. If you hide those feelings from your loved ones, you are not giving them a chance to love you in return. Neglecting yourself to show up for others could also lead to resentment and frustration, which will drive a wedge in your relationships.
Remember to have some grace for yourself, though.
The idea is to treat our friends and our neighbors the same way we treat ourselves, and vice versa! Because when we take care of ourselves, we are capable of truly being there for others. Also, when someone seems to be setting a boundary with you – try not to take it personally. When we learn to respect what others need, our relationships have the opportunity to flourish.
Now that you have a better understanding of what different types of boundaries there are to consider, we hope it helps you establish your own. Doing so will help you develop a greater sense of identity, build your self esteem, avoid burnout and enhance both your emotional and mental health. It’s not only good for you, but also good for the people around you.