Boundaries are protective limits between oneself and others. We all have a limit to what is safe and appropiate. Boundaries help define ourselves as separate individuals (where one ends and where the other begins), with unique needs and wants. When we learn to set healthy boundaries we empower ourselves to determine how we want to be treated by others, and we develop a clearer sense of self.
💢Boundaries are critical to our sense of self-worth and help us connect with our true selves.
💕They help us to build authentic healthy relationships where we feel free and accepted for who we really are.
🙅Boundaries help us to protect ourselves by identifying what is acceptable and what is not; what we need and what we do not.
⚠️The ultimate goal of boundaries is safety. Setting clear boundaries with others allows us to stay in a physiologically and emotionally balanced state, calm and regulated.
Boundaries begin to develop in childhood. In a nurturing and secure family, the child is supported in individualize from others. Children are taugh what is appropiate and what is not, and how to protect their inviduality. We learned about our boundaries by the way we are treated as children and by the way we see our caregivers to interact.
According to Family Systems Theory, families develop boundaries based on their specific beliefs regarding who they are. These beliefs surround the individuals in the family distinguishing them from others – creating a sense of “otherness.” Family therapists will work with families where boundaries have become crossed, distorted, or are non-existent. These types of situations can lead to dysfunctional and unhealthy relational patterns.
Family therapists will assess boundary problems along a spectrum that follow two extremes:
- Enmeshment: family members lose the space for personal growth and autonomy. Boundaries are too fluid, not clear and are crossed in multiple occasions. There is no consideration for the natural hierachy and separation of the different sub-systems (coupl, parental, siblings). Parents could start to rely too much on their children for emotional and moral support, or could be too intrusive to the children's privacy.
- Disengagement: family members feel detached from one another, encouranging independence. There’s little to no communication, and no flexibility in family patterns to accommodate effective support and guidance. Boundaries are overly rigid. Children may not feel as if they can confide in their parents or seek emotional support in them.
You can begin to reflect of your family boundaries in order to undertand better why you may be struggling with setting certain boundaries. It is important to work with a therapist in order to develop healthier boundaries that will lead to more balance and successful relationships.
Main type of boundaries:
- Right to feel and express your feelings
- Ability to separate your feelings from other's
- Taking responsibility for your feelings and not other's
- Being aware of oversharing with others
- Deciding the pace of a relationship
- Amount of thoughts, opinions or beliefs you choose to share with others
- Honouring your opinions and beliefs. Not changing them to please others
- Expressing your needs
- Deciding what topics to speak about
- Refusing to answer certain questions
- Deciding what type of content you want to consume
- Setting boundaries about your personal space
- Deciding your privacy limits
- Deciding about your own health, body and looks
- Establishing limits with family / friends coming over or spending time together
- Limiting the amount of touching or sexual interactions
- Setting financial boundaries (how, what, when, with whom to spend money)
- Sharing your possessions with others
- Organizing your time as you need. Deciding to spend different amount of time in different areas of your life.
What to say to set boundaries
It can feel very difficult to set boundaries to other people. It is natural to want to avoid conflict and preserve the relationship. However, there are times we need to put our needs first. Practice will makes perfect.
Below, I give you some options you can try:
"I wish I could, but now it is not a good time"
"I am not comfortable with that"
"This is not doable for me"
"Wow, thanks for the offer/ invite, though that is not something I can do right now"
"I will have to get back to you on that"
"I love you and care about you. Unfortunately, I cannot help with this right now because it feels too hard for me"
" I really want to help you, but right now it is not the best moment. Can we talk in the morning?"
I hope you find this useful. Please leave your comments below.