What Are Boundaries and Why Do You Need Them?

What are Boundaries?

In the day and age we live in, everyone seems busier and more overwhelmed than ever before. Our mental space and time are packed with a never-ending list of ideas that pull our attention: work, family, friends, faith, cooking, cleaning, social events, social media, world events, personal issues, etc. We are all trying our best to take care of ourselves and those we love but with so many things pulling at us it can leave us burnt out and exhausted. In a place like this, we can be giving everything we have and feel like it is not enough or feels like we have lost control of it all. The way we get out of this place is to set limits or boundaries. Boundaries are the lines we set between ourselves and other people that say “This is where I end and that is where you begin” or “this is my responsibility and this is not”. You can imagine them as a fence you put around yourself that has a gate where you decide what is to be let inside or not. You can let in the good and keep out the bad. You choose what you say “yes’ or “no” to. 

 

Types of Boundaries

 There are many types of boundaries and the following list includes examples of what they could look like:

  • Physical: saying no when someone tries to hug you
  • Emotional: refusing to take the blame for others’ bad choices
  • Verbal: stating that if someone cannot stop raising their voice you will leave the conversation
  • Time: telling a friend you can meet for coffee for no longer than an hour
  • Work: setting a cut off time from which you are no longer available by email or phone
  • Spiritual: stating you are going to silently pray before a meal
  • Financial: setting limits on how much you spend on vacation
  • Sexual: stating how far you are willing to go with a partner and what you are not ready for

Why Do I Need Boundaries? 

Unhealthy Boundaries

          When we get confused about what our responsibilities are and we take on others’ responsibilities it can lead to pain in many areas of our life. For our emotional well-being, a lack of boundaries can lead to emotional issues like anger, anxiety, and depression. We may have thoughts that our life is out of control, that we are not good enough, or that we are letting others down. Our relationships may be painful and unfulfilling. You may have the experience of being a “people pleaser” or “co-dependent” on others which is when  a person has an unhealthy desire for approval from another in a relationship. When we cannot say “no” to another person out of our own volition we become dependent upon them for approval for our life or we end up becoming responsible for others’ lives. Our happiness and health is no longer under our control and we can feel powerless to change our circumstances. 

Healthy Boundaries 

      When we have healthy boundaries and are able to say “yes” and “no” appropriately we gain control and direction of our lives. We are able to create a life where we are balanced and make choices that keep us happy, healthy, safe, and confident. Boundaries give us space to exist as our own person and allow us to take responsibility for our stuff and no one else’s. Which leads to less exhaustion and burnout, more fulfilling relationships, and overall increased quality of life.  Learning about and beginning to set boundaries is one of the most important things we can do to improve our lives. There are many resources available to begin this journey in the forms of books and podcasts, as well as, reaching out to a professional counselor who can help support you as you learn, explore, and grow in boundaries on a more personal level. 

Resources for Setting Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud, John Townsend (Book)

Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day by Anne Katherine (Book)

–  The Boundaries.me Podcast by Dr. Henry Cloud (Podcast)

The Place We Find Ourselves: Episode 98 Engaging with Someone Who Has Harmed You (Podcast)


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