Boundaries – what, why, and more…
Boundaries are especially needed for people who are kind-hearted and givers by nature, because takers will not generally have them, and when they encounter them, well, that in part is why I’m talking about it.
A reminder that I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, that said – this is advice from my own life and experiences, and is not to be used as a substitute for actual mental health professional help.
What is a boundary?
When we’re talking about boundaries in mental health and psychology – it’s easiest to think of them as an imaginary line between you and me, a border between where my responsibility ends and where yours begins. Keeping that in mind when setting boundaries is important. You can set a boundary for what you personally will put up with – but you should not, and really cannot set one for other people’s behaviours.
Why are they important?
Boundaries are important for many reasons. They’re really not just buzzwords. As I said before – they’re a limit of what you will put up with, and it also can help you with not taking responsibility for other people’s actions – things that they need to take responsibility for. Sometimes this can be hard to do – I have said before and I’ll say it probably until I close my eyes for the last time – no one’s life or family is perfect – the only difference is that some do a better job of hiding the dysfunction. There are some people we just can’t rescue from their own dysfunction – and it’s okay to feel sad or upset about it. The reality is that unless someone wants to get help, wants to get better, they aren’t going to. It’s also where drawing a boundary comes in. It gives you a space where you can deal with your own emotions, needs, beliefs and opinions.
Creating Healthy Boundaries
Now, again, a boundary is a border between you and another person. It’s not meant to be used as punishment, even though there are people out there who do use it to punish others. The reality is that a healthy boundary is not an attempt to terminate a relationship, it’s a setting of guidelines to try to continue a relationship – be it familial, romantic, friendship, heck, even coworkers. For a lot of us, it’s hard to set these boundaries due to many things, we crave acceptance, and sometimes we’ve learned some maladaptive ways of dealing with that.
There are different types of boundaries – physical, emotional, time, material, sexual and behavioural – and a boundary can be in multiple categories.
As mentioned earlier, when we draw a boundary it’s for what we’re in control of – and that doesn’t include someone else’s behaviour. So, you can draw a boundary that you won’t engage with a behavior, as your actions are within your control. But you cannot force this onto another person – or it’s not a boundary, and it’s really headed into manipulation and abuse – it should go without saying that this is not something you want to do.
So, an example of creating a healthy boundary.
I do not like to be hugged or otherwise touched by people who I don’t know well. That is a boundary for me. Now, if you meet me and you haven’t read this, or any other times I’ve mentioned this, you won’t know. This is where stating your boundary is important. It doesn’t need to be expressed in a nasty fashion. If you were to try to hug me, I’m likely going to physically step back, and let you know. “Hey, I don’t like hugs from people that I don’t know well”, and offer to shake hands or fist bump.
Now, if you don’t respect a boundary, and we’ll continue with that example, and try to hug me, I will restate that I don’t like it, and if you continue to violate it, I’m going to remove myself from the situation, and you’re going to be added to a mental list of people I don’t want to interact with in the future.
So, that’s the first part… Next time I’ll be talking about The Consequences of Ignoring Boundaries: Why You Don’t Want to F*ck Around and Find Out.