Defining Healthy Boundaries
Updated: Apr 5
Understanding yourself and communicating what you need and want to those around you
This buzz word has been floating around in the ether for years – but what is it and do we really need it in our lives?
Boundaries are all about sensing what’s comfortable for ourselves – deciding what you need and want along the way – and then sharing that information when necessary.
Effectively, setting up healthy boundaries is a learned communication skill. We’re not born with this.
It may seem like a big skill – everything sort of blending into everything else - but to make it more digestible, you can break everything down into tranches.
Five examples of boundaries:
Physical: includes the need for personal space – how comfortable we are with being touched as well as the requirement we have for rest and nourishment
Emotional: just as it sounds, this allows us to reflect upon how we feel
Time: how this is protected and utilized
Intellectual: refers to your thoughts, ideas, and curiosity
Material: handles the items and possessions we have in our homes as well as how we share them
When you see them placed next to one another, it’s easy to conjure daily examples of how this impacts our lives – especially during lockdown when space is luxury. Mess in the house, scheduling in home-schooling, finding some alone time to recharge.
The core of this concept is that boundaries are about ourselves – not other people. It’s our job to define them and then express them to the people around us in a way that can be heard and digested.
So, yelling and screaming is out. When emotions are running high, defences are up and listening goes down. Being reflective, calm and clear is a better place to begin.
Top tips to build and preserve better boundaries:
Name your limits: understand what you can tolerate and accept - know what makes you feel uncomfortable and stressed
Tune into your feelings: Make a note of when you feel discomfort or resentment as these are cues that your boundaries are being infringed upon
Be direct: Be aware of communication styles, some people may need information delivered delicately while others require facts and figures
Give yourself permission: Don’t let fear be a barrier to communicating what you feel you need
Practice self-awareness: Again, boundaries are all about honing in on your feelings; if you feel yourself slipping then pause and take stock
Consider your past and present: Think about the roles you played in your past (for example, caretaker) and remember you’re not bound to them – you’re allowed to change and grow
Make self-care a priority: Give yourself permission to put yourself first
Seek support: There’s no shame in getting help and support in figuring out how life works for you
Be assertive: Communicate clearly with people when they have crossed a boundary
Start small: Being with a boundary that isn’t threatening or overwhelming and then look to increment to ideas that are more challenging
Full details available: Building and Preserving Better Boundaries
Change comes from within and is possible for all of us to achieve. Setting healthy boundaries is the first step towards achieving a more comfortable way of being. Be kind to yourself and remember that you’re embarking on a courageous path to a better you!
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