Boundaries are the invisible lines that separate you from me. Boundaries are limits we set for ourselves to keep us emotionally, physically, and spiritually safe. Sad to say, but many people don’t know anything about boundaries because it’s not something learned in school and is rarely talked about in social circles. Prestigious universities and higher institutions of learning don’t teach boundaries as a subject, yet it’s an essential component to health and success.
Boundaries are your indisputable limits that pertain to your comfort level in all areas of your life. There are many forms of boundaries including physical, emotional, sexual, social, financial, intellectual, and spiritual.
Boundaries are limits you set to maintain your safety, health and integrity. Boundaries help you to determine your feelings, needs, wants, responsibilities, and identity from others.
Boundaries help you to maintain your individuality, with thoughts, feelings and needs separate from the people in your life. One type of boundary is verbal limits you set by communicating to friends, family, coworkers and even acquaintances what you’re comfortable with and what you expect.
Boundaries are a crucial part of cultivating self-esteem as the ability to set boundaries determines how people treat you. If you’re unable to communicate your limits or don’t even know what your limits are, people can take advantage, violate, or hurt you.
Boundaries instill order and harmony in our lives. They set the stage for how people treat us and reflects the quality of our relationships. It’s important to be aware of our own boundaries and know how to set those boundaries with the people we interact with day to day.
We set our physical boundaries by being clear about,
· Who can touch me.
· How and when I’m touched.
· Deciding how close I’ll let people come to me.
· Backing away from someone who invades my personal space.
We set our emotional boundaries by,
· Setting limits on how we expect to be treated.
· Determining the range of personal comments I'll accept from others.
· Not tolerating sexual comments or derogatory remarks i.e., sexist or racist jokes
· Standing up for my beliefs and integrity.
We set our relational boundaries by,
· Not allowing people to make us feel bad.
· Communicating our expectations for the relationship.
· Setting guidelines for what’s ok and what’s not ok.
Here are some examples of poor boundaries…
Social: A co-worker asks you to complete a project for her which will cause you to be late for everything you need to get done for the rest of the day. You agree to do it because you don’t want her mad at you. You really want her to like you.
Emotional: You “slaved” all day to make a nice dinner for your husband or boyfriend and he’s late for dinner. You’re starving, but you really want to share a nice meal with him so you wait. He arrives an hour late, the food is cold and you’re really angry, but you don’t say anything because you don’t want to ruin the evening. After all, you tell yourself, “It’s not such a big deal. He must have had a hard day.”
Physical: You have sex with someone you just met because you want him to like you. You’re intimate with your husband even though you’re exhausted and not up for it. You do it anyway because you don’t want to upset him and/or you don’t feel like you have the right to say “no.”
As you can see, failing to set boundaries can be detrimental to your health and your self-esteem. Boundaries are important for developing and maintaining healthy relationships with ourselves and others because if we don’t set limits, we feel taken advantage of, angry, and resentful. Unfortunately for most of us, learning to set healthy boundaries is not a skill we can learn from formal education or even at work. Boundaries are life skills that are usually first learned at home from our role models.
If this concept of boundaries is new to you, don’t worry- there is hope. One of the first steps in improving self-esteem and making positive changes in your life is learning about your own limits. With a starting point, you can begin to transform your relationships into healthy and mutually satisfying connections with friends and family. Once you start setting boundaries, you may even feel an exhilaration come over you… as boundaries can work like magic to get you what you want.