When you hear the word boundary what do you think of? Maybe something to keep something/someone in or keep something/someone out? Maybe you think of a fence or some type of enclosure. What if I told you that boundaries are a way to improve your ability to let other people in, not to keep them out. Boundaries can help you set healthy expectations, explain levels of respect you expect from someone else, and can also improve communication between people. What if I told you having the ability to set and keep boundaries with yourself, and others was healthy for you? Would you think twice about the boundaries, or lack thereof, in your life? You might think that this sounds easy to set and keep boundaries, but just like everything else, building this ability takes time and lots and lots of practice.
Boundaries in this context refers to setting an expectation that you expect those people in your life to not cross or tamper with because you’ve asked them not to. A boundary can also be something such as allowing yourself to do what’s best for you or opting out of something that maybe isn’t in your best interest. Boundaries are very important to set with people in your life whether it is family or friends, but they are also important to set with yourself. Setting the boundary is only half of the battle. You can tell someone you don’t want to be treated poorly, but if you keep allowing them to treat you poorly the boundary you set was for nothing. You must actively keep the boundaries you set, and not just tell people you have them but actually follow through.
Healthy Boundaries from Sharon Martin, LCSW:
- Saying no to things you do not want to do, or don’t have the resources to do.
- Leaving situations that are harmful to you.
- Telling others how you want to be treated.
- Not trying to change, fix, or rescue others from difficult situations or feelings.
- Allowing others to make their own decisions.
- Prioritizing self-care.
- Communicating your thoughts, feelings, and needs.
- Having personal space and privacy.
- Pursuing your own goals and interests.
The boundaries listed above are far from all inclusive. Boundaries can look like a lot of different things, but those are just some for example. As you can see from the list these aren’t just boundaries to set with other people in your life. There are boundaries on the list above that are boundaries that are useful to set with ourselves. Keeping boundaries with ourselves is just as important as keeping boundaries with the people in our lives. Keeping boundaries with ourselves isn’t always easy, but it is doable. People say that at times we are our own worst enemy, but we can also be our own biggest supporter if we try to be.
Ciarra Fuller, LMSW, psychotherapist currently working at Health West. I practice social work from a Strengths-Based Perspective. I enjoy outdoor activities, swimming, and reading a good book. I am currently waiting to become an aunt this summer, and I am very excited about that.