Setting Boundaries

Boundaries and How to Communicate Them

Do you have a hard time saying no? Do you prioritize the needs of others over your own? Do you struggle to ask for help, but hate doing everything on your own? Healthy personal boundaries are essential to finding balance in your life and enjoying the relationships in it. Without concrete boundaries on our energy and time, we often end up feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, and resentful. But what exactly is a boundary and how do you set one?

Boundary Categories

Physical: Boundaries related to your body and personal space. These include who is allowed to touch you and how much space you require. Someone grabbing you without permission, using your deodorant, or barging into a room without knocking are all physical boundary violations.

Emotional: Each person is responsible for their own feelings. You are not in charge of how someone feels or reactions and vice versa. Healthy emotional boundaries prevent you from oversharing, offering unsolicited advice, or blaming others for how you feel. Invalidating someone’s feelings, telling them how they feel, or asking intrusive questions are examples of emotional boundary violations.

Mental: Healthy mental boundaries allow you to listen to others with an open mind, even when you disagree. To do this, you must know what you believe and be able to define your own thoughts, opinions, and values. Anyone who makes demands instead of requests, puts down your beliefs, or disrespects an answer of “no” to get what they want has violated a mental boundary.

Material: You determine who has access to your possessions such as your home, car, clothing, record collection, etc. Someone taking these things without permission is an example of a material boundary violation.

Sexual: Only you can decide what level of sexual touch is acceptable, as well as when, where, and with whom it will happen. Unwanted sexual contact, coercion, or lewd comments are all sexual boundary violations.

Types of Boundaries

Rigid/Inflexible

– Not asking for help when you need it

– Avoiding close relationships due to fear of rejection

– Have the attitude of “My way or the highway!”

– Isolate yourself from others

Porous

– Overshare personal information

– Put up with disrespectful comments or behaviour

– Say yes when you want to say no

– Become overly invested in the problems of others

Healthy

– Feel comfortable asking for and receiving help

– Value your own thoughts and opinions

– Know when to share personal information and with whom

– Can respect the boundaries of others without getting upset

What does a healthy boundary sound like?

There are many ways in which healthy boundaries can be communicated. It may be one or two sentences such as: “I’m going to say no to dinner, but I look forward to catching up another time” or “At the moment I’m not looking for advice, just a listening ear”.

If a line has been crossed, try this formula to communicate your feelings and wishes:

“When I see that “ (observation)

“I feel “ (feeling)

“because my need for is not met.” (need)

“Would you be willing to ?” (request)

This may sound like: “When I see that you borrowed my favourite dress without asking, I feel disrespected because I was not given the opportunity to decide whether I wanted to lend out my clothes. Would you please ask next time?”

Learning how to set healthy boundaries often takes a lot of practice. It is important to reflect on how our current boundary style developed and what changes are needed. This work is best done with the help of a counsellor, who can ask strategic questions and support you with any difficult feelings that come up while exploring the past or when implementing healthy boundaries in the present. Any of our counsellors would be happy to help with this process. Please reach out to schedule a free 15-minute consultation.

Written by Cat Zydyk

Reference:

Cole, T. (2021). Boundary Boss: The essential guide to talk true, be seen, and (finally) live free. Sounds True.