Setting healthy boundaries is an art and a continuous practice. Listening to the episode Boundaries – A Smart Foundation, you’ll
- Learn about the basics of healthy boundaries
- Find out about behaviours that violate your boundary
- Learn how emotions are signs of boundary violations
- Get to know some boundary pitfalls that may block you in setting healthy boundaries
- Get some ideas on how you can strengthen your boundaries
Why do Healthy Boundaries Matter?
I am not sure about you but I never have learned to set healthy boundaries as a child. I grew up in a family with toxic dynamics that violated my boundaries many times. Nobody in my family knew or talked about boundaries. As a result, I did not know how to set healthy boundaries as a young adult.
This influenced my relationships negatively because I often did not stand up for myself or set a boundary when my boundaries were crossed. Over time, I felt more and more resentful and our relationship went out of balance. After this relationship ended, I decided to start counselling because I wanted to have healthy relationships. Over time, I learned to take good care of my boundaries. As a result, the quality of my relationships has increased.
Having healthy boundaries is an act of self-care and self-love towards myself. While I cannot control how people behave towards me, I can take care of my boundaries to protect myself. Having healthy boundaries is not a one-time event. It is a daily practice and a growth process because new situations require to adjust our boundaries.
Our boundaries act as a fence and have several functions in our lives. First of all, they protect us from harmful behaviours and actions that are not ok for you. because they support us in keeping those behaviours outside of the fence. They also allow us to set a standard for our lives by setting a standard about who and which behaviours we want to allow into our lives. Furthermore, healthy boundaries support us in letting go of relationships that aren’t good for us anymore. They also define who we are as individuals. Last but not least, healthy boundaries help us manage our energy levels and time commitments and protect us from burn-out.
Overall, setting healthy boundaries is an act of self-respect. Having healthy boundaries is an art we need to learn as adults. It reduces our risk for burn-out, stress, fatigue, and health problems and increases our well-being.
“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in.” Mandy Hale
What is Important to Know?
- Boundaries are personal.
Each of us is unique, therefore we have different boundaries. And that’s ok. We need to learn to accept, respect and embrace our differences. For example, I have never in my life liked yelling because it is not ok for me. However, it might be ok for another person.
- Boundaries need to be communicated.
Since our boundaries are unique and different, other people cannot know them because their boundaries might be very different. Therefore, we need communicate our boundaries.
- They depend on the relationship and the context.
Our boundaries may often also be different depending on the relationship and the context. There is no one-fits-all recipe for boundaries that can be used for every relationship. We need to be flexible and adjust them to the specific relationship and context.
- They may change over time.
Boundaries may change throughout our relationships as well as through personal growth.
What are Generally Harmful Behaviours?
While each person has individual behaviours that are not ok for them, there are certain behaviours that in general violate our boundaries. These behaviours include:
- Any kind of abusive behaviour, whether it is physically, sexual, or emotionally abusive behaviour from another person.
- If you are the target of manipulative actions or bullying.
- Any behaviour that intends to overpower you, e.g. you are confronted with a person who has an “I win, you lose” mentality or a “my way or the highway” mentality
- In case that another person takes advantage of you or doesn’t appreciate you.
- If you are the target of contempt, ridicule, mockery, and sarcasm.
- Whenever you are exposed to heavy judgments and constant criticism.
- If you are the target for any racist or discriminative behaviour.
While these behaviours violate our boundaries, we can also take specific actions to strengthen them: Boundaries are in our bodies, so our bodies will signal us where our boundary is. We can strengthen our boundaries when we say no when our inner sense is no and when we say yes if our inner sense is yes. Furthermore, we improve our boundaries if we respect our feelings and our intuition. We also empower ourselves if we stand up for ourselves if our boundaries have been harmed. Last but not least, we can take care of our boundaries if we are curious about ourselves and find out who we are.
Our emotions are usually a good indicator of boundary violations: Some people experience anger if their boundaries have been crossed. Some people may experience resentment, confusion, or irritation.
For some people, it can also be a sign that their boundaries have been violated if they constantly blame another person or if they find justifications for behaviours that are not ok for the.
Pitfalls are any type of often unconscious patterns that can prevent us from setting healthy boundaries. These patterns include shame and guilt. Both emotions often cause us to abandon ourselves and neglect our boundaries. Various forms of fear may also interfere with our capacity to set healthy boundaries. Other areas we need to be mindful of are self-doubt and an exaggerated sense of obligation. If we have experienced trauma or other painful childhood experiences, we may need to do some deeper healing to increase our capacity to set boundaries. For some people, it might also be helpful to ask for professional help in order to improve their boundaries.
How do Healthy Boundaries Look Like?
- Emotional well-being
Your boundaries are healthy if you experience emotional well-being. This includes that you feel good about yourself and that you have an optimistic perspective on the future. You can manage stress well and experience happiness and satisfaction.
- Embracing your uniqueness
If you have healthy boundaries, you have a strong sense of your identity. Also, you know who you are and who you are not. Furthermore, you take responsibility for your life and can hold people accountable for theirs (e.g. you don’t need to rescue them). Additionally, you know what is yours and what is not yours. Apart from this, you are putting yourself first, even if you risk to let somebody down. In addition to this, you stick to your values and stay in integrity even if you fear to be rejected.
- Accepting our differences
If we have healthy boundaries we see that we are unique individuals but we can also accept our differences. We respect each other while we allow us to be who we are. For example, I am a cat lover and some of my friends don’t like cats. And that is ok. I respect that she does not like cats and I tried to keep my cats away.
I am curious how you feel about the quality of your boundaries after reading this article? Which areas are you feeling confident about? Which areas would you like to improve?