When people hear encouragement about setting boundaries, it might be taken as a criticism of their behaviors or their tendency towards kindness. However, creating healthy boundaries doesn’t just solve an immediate problem of someone wanting more than you can give, it actually can re-shape how you see yourself, your relationships, and the people with whom you have built these relationships. When we create boundaries that reflect who we are and what we value, they can change our lives in a variety of ways.
10 Boundary Benefits
- We gain compassion for others and recognize their limitations.
- We experience less anger or resentment towards people because we are able to accept that everyone is entitled to set boundaries.
- We gain a sense of inner peace and safety from feeling the need to respond to others’ self-serving demands. While not everyone will automatically respect a boundary immediately or in perpetuity, by verbalizing your boundaries, you have set up a defense that you can feel safe honoring.
- You gain the time and energy you need to attend to the things that matter most to you—not that matter most to someone else.
- You gain a sense of self-respect by not setting aside your needs to fulfill the needs of others—and others will respect you more for having drawn this line.
- There is also less relationship conflict between you and others when you make it clear what is and is not reasonable to expect from you. If you state your boundaries firmly and live them publicly, people lose the ammunition they might have had to guilt you into agreeing to something you would wish you had not agreed to.
- Boundaries allow for improved communication. You’re setting the ground rules and showing others where you stand—these invite others to do the same in your relationship with them and their relationships with others.
- As you build healthy boundaries, you’re building up your self-esteem, as well. You’ll begin to realize that your self-worth should not be based on what others use you for, but on how you use your talents and your gifts. You’ll also gain confidence in yourself as you communicate your boundaries.
- Clearer boundaries mean less room for misunderstandings or “guilt trips” when you are asked to defend or clarify them, so you enjoy lower stress and less anxiety. It can be hard at first to communicate where your boundaries lie, but the anxiety decreases as you practice honoring them.
- Lastly, clear boundaries result in others having a better understanding and greater acceptance of you. Boundaries reflect our values and when we see what others value, it helps us understand who they are.
When you think about boundaries, what types spring to mind first? While the purpose is to set limits on what others expect or ask of you, there are a wide variety of boundary categories that circumstances might demand. Here are some of the ones that are frequently crossed unless we acknowledge them, communicate them, and maintain them.
8 Types of Boundaries and What They Look Like
- Physical: “Don’t get so close to me.” “Don’t enter my room without asking.”
- Emotional: “Please don’t criticize me when I share my feelings.”
- Time: “I can only stay for an hour.” “Do you have time to help me figure this out?”
- Sexual: “We need to use contraception if we’re going to start sleeping together.”
- Ethical: “I just can’t lie for you. I’m sorry.”
- Intellectual: “It’s okay to disagree.”
- Financial: “We can’t afford it now and I won’t let you charge it on our credit card.”
- Spiritual: “I’m not okay with you insulting my faith just because you don’t share my beliefs.”
When someone who cares about you intentionally crosses a boundary, it can be a form of abuse as abuse can take shape in all of these ways. When someone violates a personal boundary, it’s important to remind them of the boundary and share with them the way their disrespect of it makes you feel.
Communicating Boundaries May Take Practice
It may take some reflection and consideration to determine where you feel your boundaries should be. Sometimes it helps to step outside the situation and imagine what advice you’d give yourself if you were a friend or a counselor. When you’re ready to name and share a particular boundary with others, be sure to use “I-statements” to emphasize that the boundaries are yours to set and maintain. Here are some suggestions for ways to open up the discussion:
- I have a problem when...
- I really don’t want to...
- I really do not have time for...
- I need you to…
- I actually do mind if or when...
- This is hard for me to say, but...
- I feel uncomfortable with…
- It’s important to me that…
These sentence stems allow you to take ownership of the boundary you are setting without sending someone on the defensive or, worse, on the offensive. As you state what you need from others, you are setting yourself up as someone who is worthy of asking for what you need and modeling the respect of self that you expect and extend to others.
Setting boundaries is one of those practices that you may need to do more than once with the same people until they realize that you mean what you say. However, the benefits of “resource ownership” are well worth the work.
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