Boundaries is the limit that you set for yourself on how other people treat you and relate to you. Having healthy boundaries is part of self-care and helps us feel and stay safe, physically, emotionally and psychologically. It helps others to respect us and prevents them from taking advantage of us.
The limits or boundaries that we set will be different depending on:
- What context or situation are you in? Is it in school, at work or at home
- Who are the people? Are they family, friends or strangers
- What are your personal values and believes
- What are the social norms, practices and believes of the community that you are in.
To set healthy boundaries, you will need:
- Self-awareness – How well do we know what we feel, what we need, why we react in different situations; what we expect of others and ourselves.
- Assertiveness – is expressing your feelings openly without being offensive.
- Communicate clearly and directly- Learn to say ‘no’ politely and firmly.
What can having healthy boundaries look like:
|Healthy boundaries||Rigid Boundaries|
|Knows what you want and can communicate it||Find it hard to ask for help|
|Shows appropriate amount of concern and empathy at the appropriate time and to the right relationships.||Not bothered or over-involved in other people’s problem.|
|Do not compromise your values and beliefs||Have difficulty saying ‘No’ and fear rejection|
|Share personal information to the right person and in appropriate way||Overshares information or extremely protective of sharing how you feel or what is going on in your life.|
|Value your own opinion and make your own decisions.||Dependent on other people’s opinions to make decision|
|Able to accept when others say no||Feels rejected when other’s say ‘no’|
Different types of boundaries to set.
Emotional boundaries refer to how you feel and the limitation you have on sharing of personal experiences. This would include the capacity you have for carrying other people’s emotional load.
We all want to be there for our friends when they are having a bad time. To do so and not become emotionally drained by their problems, we need to set emotional boundaries.
Our friends may not mean to ‘trauma dump’ on us as they may not know our emotional capacity. If we are having a lot of problems of our own, the added stress of having to support another person can result in burnout. So, we need to know our own limits. If a friend shares very intimate details of their problems which makes you feel uncomfortable, politely tell your friend that it is affecting you negatively.
You can try saying this:
Physical boundary is the personal space, physical distance and touch that we are comfortable with. To have healthy physical boundaries we need to be aware of what is appropriate in each situation and relationship.
Often perpetrators would target people who look vulnerable and afraid. Standing up for yourself and behaving in an assertive manner could reduce the risk of being a target.
When a stranger stands too close, showing your displeasure would send signals about boundaries. If a person touches you in a manner that makes you feel uncomfortable, be very stern when you tell off that person.
AWARE provides clarity about what is sexual harassment here and what you can do.
Sharing some things with our friends is a kind thing to do and helps with bonding. But we don’t have to share everything especially those things that are very precious to us.
Try saying this:
Different types of relationships will need different boundaries.
No matter how close you are to your bestie, there may still be some boundaries that you may want to set in. A true friend will respect those boundaries. Gently remind them if they forget.
Boundaries in romantic relationship can sometimes cause friction especially when one person does not share the same expectation of a relationship as the other partner or have different boundaries. If you are uncomfortable about being intimate with someone, share your views casually from onset or send clear signals before a situation becomes too intense.
Having boundaries in social media is very important because whatever is shared to the world is no longer in our control. Here’s what you can do:
(1) Decide what your social media is for
Is it to share with just friends alone or open to everyone.
(2) Define how you want to be viewed by other people
It’s common to be misunderstood on social media because people don’t know us as a real person and not everyone sees every one of our post.
(3) Think through your message
Do not share anything on impulse or when you are emotionally affected. Remember that whatever is stored in the clouds lives forever.
(4) Clarify comments
Making comments can be misread and mis-interpreted especially if you do not explain what you are trying to say and do sufficiently. The same goes for other people comments to us. It would be good to clarify what they are actually saying before jumping to a conclusion.
(5) Call out unwanted behavior privately
If you feel like you need to call out a wrong comment or behavior, do it privately first. Give the person a chance to clarify the words and behavior. Doing so in public can cause other people to pile on that person. You don’t want the same thing to happen to you so be considerate with others.
How to set boundaries
- Think of what boundaries you want to set for each of the above. When that boundary is crossed, think about what action you will take.
- Communicate what your boundaries are. If a boundary has been crossed by someone:
- Talk about that situation when your boundary was crossed.
- Be very clear about the behavior, action or words that you did not like from that person.
- Share how you affects you and how you prefer it to be.
- Remain calm if that person gets upset.
- Be consistent and firm but polite about your boundaries.
- Stay away from people who refuse to respect your boundaries.
While it’s important to set boundaries with strangers and people we don’t know well or like, it’s important to have me-time even with loved ones and friends. Sometimes taking time off can make us feel guilty, especially if the other person is in need. However, in order to continue taking care of others, we must make sure that we take care of ourselves too.