Updated: Feb 14, 2022
Can we talk about boundaries?
a real or imagined line that marks the limits or edges of something and separates it from other things or places
a dividing line
When you’re younger, your parents and guardians are there with you nearly every step of the way to protect you from life’s sting. Then you grow up and with adulting comes the hard realisation that your life really is in your own hands. The responsibility for who you are, what you become, your peace and sanity, and the people you surround yourself with. This is when boundaries find a solid place in our lives.
Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. Setting boundaries inevitably involves taking responsibility for your choices. You are the one who makes them. You are the one who must live with their consequences. And you are the one who may be keeping yourself from making the choices you could be happy with. We must own our own thoughts and clarify distorted thinking. Henry Cloud
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life.
We’ve all heard the saying, “People treat you the way you let them.” This is what boundaries address. Your yes’s and no’s are what boundaries are made of. Boundaries look into creating the most apt way in which we want people to treat us, our space, our family and anything else we align with ourselves.
“Good boundaries free you.” Sarri Gilman
Boundaries are lines and limits on how we want to be spoken to, how we want to be talked about, what we’re willing to do or not do and how we want to see and experience ourselves in different relationships. Even though all these definitions make it seem like boundaries are only about pushing people away from us, they actually allow us to create healthier and more sustainable relationships.
In her Ted Talk about boundaries, Sarri Gilman explained that we all have a compass within us that helps guide us through life, and this compass has only two directions: YES and NO and no other details.
Everyone is in the middle of a life story and your story is being shaped by what you are yes to and what you are saying no to. Sarri Gilman
What are boundaries and what do they look/sound like?
I don’t like jokes about _________. Can you stop? I’d prefer not to talk about __________. I’d prefer not to ___________. I don’t want to ____________. I will no longer be able to __________. I want/need ___________. If you have said one of these, congratulations - you know what boundaries are. Whether they are emotional, mental, or physical boundaries, they are here to protect the self.
Types of boundaries
Setting emotional boundaries means: not projecting our emotions onto other people by assuming what they are feeling or vice versa, setting limits to questions or topics that you allow to get involved in either because they are too emotionally heavy or raw for you at a specific point in time. They help you separate your feelings and emotions from someone else’s.
Heard of emotional dumping? Yeah emotional boundaries help with that too. The purpose of emotional boundaries doesn’t mean that we must stop being empathetic towards others and their feelings. It simply means that just because someone is bleeding doesn’t mean I should cut myself too in order to give support. By creating emotional boundaries, you set yourself up to support the people you love without drowning.
Yep, all our stuff; our possessions and our property need boundaries too! Creating material boundaries involves taking note of what can be shared and what is off limits. It also looks at how you want your possessions to be treated or returned. Have people borrowed your precious books and failed to return them or even worse, return them with coffee stains and folded pages?
Has a friend or sister borrowed a pair of heels or a dress and never returned it? Have you ever lent your friend your car only to get it back with no fuel in the tank or worse with a dent?
And you failed to communicate that and now hold a little bit of a grudge? Material boundaries tackles all these and more.
Time/energy boundaries tackle what you say yes and no to that is likely to take up your time and energy. Are you constantly saying yes to sporadic plans that your family, friends or even employer make yet you are well aware that you are exhausted? Are your friends constantly running hours late for lunches and brunches without any prior communication? Do you find yourself in situations in which you make plans and they simply don’t show up? Have you done this to someone? You need to set boundaries.
Creating mental boundaries means allowing yourself to have opinions that differ from other people without them forcing their alternative ideas onto you. They involve not repressing our own thoughts to please someone else and understanding that we have opinions too. It’s also about taking information in good stride, doing your own research into different topics and picking which side you’re on without going with the flow of group-think.
These boundaries are all about our physical bodies and space; our bodies, our physical spaces like our homes, our workspaces, our bedrooms, you name it. Physical boundaries also cover what we are willing or unwilling to do sexually (even though sexual boundaries are a whole separate conversation). Creating physical boundaries is about things like proximity, touch and even PDA (public display of affection).
It may seem like physical boundaries are all about the physical but they go further than that. Physical boundaries are also about what people say about our bodies. If unwanted physical or sexual comments make you feel uncomfortable even when they are meant to be compliments, then there should be boundaries around what people say about your body sexually or non-sexually. Check back next week for how to get started on setting boundaries, or how to enforce them if you are already in the business of setting them!