Setting Healthy Boundaries

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

A buzz word I keep hearing these days is “boundaries”, but what exactly are boundaries and why are they necessary?

What Are Boundaries?

Boundaries are personal limits or rules that you set to determine what is okay and what is not okay in relationships. There are many types of boundaries including:

  • Physical boundaries (protecting our physical space)
  • Emotional boundaries (protecting our emotional wellbeing)
  • Material boundaries (protecting our personal belongings/finances)
  • Professional boundaries (protecting our ability to work effectively)
  • Time boundaries (protecting our use of our time)

Everyone has different personal boundaries. What one person is comfortable with, another person may not be. Our personal boundaries are shaped by experiences including how you were raised, your culture, and the society you live in.

Unhealthy Boundaries

Unhealthy boundaries can be too strict and rigid, or too open and flexible. A person with rigid boundaries may have a hard time developing close relationships, despite a desire for closeness. For example, Shyanne refuses to go out with colleagues after work because she wants to keep work and home life separate, but then feels left out and lonely when her colleagues leave together on Friday. A person with boundaries that are too flexible may let others get too close too quickly, despite a desire for more distance. For example, Darren’s girlfriend has been at his house for 3 nights in a row and even though he keeps telling her she can stay, he really wishes he had time alone.

Healthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries are important to protect our own well-being and to foster healthy relationships. Healthy boundaries keep us close to others while protecting us from being taken advantage of by others. A person with healthy boundaries:

  • Knows what they are and aren’t comfortable with
  • Communicates clearly to others what their boundaries are
  • Enforces their boundaries when they aren’t respected
  • Values their own opinion
  • Is willing to put themselves first
  • Can decide when to be flexible and meet others half-way

Knowing, setting, and communicating your boundaries can feel difficult. It takes determination and practice to build boundaries into your relationships, especially if setting boundaries is new to you.

What Are My Boundaries?

The first step is discovering what your personal boundaries are. Here are some questions that will help you reflect on your boundaries:

  • Who are you comfortable hugging? Who would you rather give a handshake? In light of COVID-19, have your boundaries for space changed? Who are you comfortable being physically close to?
  • What activities/interactions boost your emotional energy? What or who drains it? Do you know how to tell when you cannot take on any more emotional weight?
  • What items are you comfortable sharing? Is it okay for friends, roommates, or family to help themselves to your food? Who would you lend money to? Under what circumstances?
  • How do you expect others to speak to you in the workplace? What projects or tasks are you willing to accept? What would you decline? Why? Would you work overtime if asked? If yes, under what circumstances?
  • How much time do you want to spend in various aspects of your life like, work, hobbies, family engagements? How can you meet your own needs and also fulfil your responsibilities? How much time do you want to be social? How much time do you need alone? When others ask for your time (run an errand, babysit, etc.) who will you say yes or no to? Why?

Learn more about how to set and communicate your personal boundaries to friends, family, coworkers, and more. Book your session today.

Written By: Cassie Hager
MACP Candidate

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