What do you think of when you imagine a boundary? A gentle stream meandering through two fields; a fortress wall guarded by armed soldiers? A boundary at its most basic can be described as a dividing line. When we consider boundaries in relationships it can feel more unclear. When I experience feelings of discomfort, resentment, or guilt, they provide a clue that a boundary has been crossed, even if I didn’t realize it was there.
Boundaries can be emotional, mental, physical, sexual, time related, material and even digital. Your boundaries are unique to you – and that’s okay. Some types of boundaries are easier to imagine such as what I’m willing to lend out: a cup of sugar; or money? Others are a little harder to conceptualize. Emotional boundaries, for example, involve separating your feelings from someone else’s. Do you ever blame others for your feelings, do you take responsibility for theirs?
When our boundaries are lacking, we may feel affected by the moods of others; we may overshare personal information too soon; we may ignore our values in order to please others. If we become too rigid with our boundaries, we may start to avoid intimacy; become overly protective of personal information; refuse to ask for help; appear detached, and keep others at a distance. Setting healthy boundaries benefits us in many ways. Avoiding burnout and enhancing mental health and emotional well-being are incredibly important, perhaps now more than ever. Clear boundaries can build self-esteem, bring self-awareness and foster independence. Finally, with healthy boundaries in place we cultivate a sense of safety, compassion and more rewarding relationships in general.
Dr. Brené Brown says, “daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” Try to tune in to how you’re feeling and start small. Work on gaining clarity of your needs and then work on communicating them kindly but directly. Remember, everyone has the right to change their boundaries at any time. You deserve to feel safe and respected, and healthy boundaries can help with that.
- Gabrielle Durupt
Canadian Mental Health Association