Establishing Healthy Boundaries Picture

Establishing Healthy Boundaries

It’s Time to Set Boundaries When:

Nothing shows us how hard it is to set boundaries as when we go home to our families. We consider ourselves grown ups, we may hold down jobs in which people look up to us, we may have been meditating and think we have everything under control…. And then, we go home, and we get catapulted back to old hurts and triggers. We don’t understand why we let each perceived slight and comment get under our skin like we do. We get pulled into the same pointless drama we have been sucked into countless times before and are left feeling drained.


Do we feel taken advantage of?

Do we find ourself getting angry, irritated or resentful of certain people or situations? We show up for others and make sure they feel good while we are left feeling unhappy and bad about ourselves. We allow others to make us feel guilty, or we are afraid of the consequences should we stop giving them what we want. These are all sure signs we have not learned to set healthy boundaries.


Healthy boundaries are the guide to successful relationships. Without boundaries, relationships can’t thrive but instead result in feelings of resentment, disappointment, isolation, or feeling an absence of a clear division between our and others’ needs and feelings (known as enmeshment). Boundaries are when we’re clear about what we do or don’t need and want, and being able to voice those needs and wants. People don’t always mean to violate our boundaries but do so unintentionally if we ourselves aren’t clear.


Boundaries keep us connected to our intuition and visa versa.

When we were little, or until our environment taught us otherwise, we trusted our inner guidance system – our intuition – body signals that showed up in the way of somatic cries for help. These distress signals may show up as a constriction or expansion in the chest, as heaviness, lightness, or tightness in the throat, as knots in the stomach, and so on. We still get those signals, but when we continuously ignore them, they eventually emerge as chronic migraines, digestive disorders, aches and pains, autoimmune disorders and the like. We can see why it is important to begin practicing the art of boundary setting.


The six different types of boundaries we need to have:

1. Physical Boundaries

Physical boundaries include how comfortable we are with physical touch, how much physical proximity we like to keep to others and how often we want to see others. This boundary also includes meeting our physical needs such as safety, rest, food and drink.


Physical boundaries also include how comfortable we feel sharing our office space, our home, or our possessions with others. How comfortable we feel when someone makes a remark about our sexuality or our looks is another violation of our physical boundaries.


We feel physically violated when our physical needs are being denied because someone tells us we aren’t allowed to go to the bathroom when we have a strong need to go. Our physical boundaries are being crossed when someone touches us inappropriately, or when someone comes into our room or office in a way that is uncomfortable to us.


2. Time Boundaries

Our time is valuable and so it is important that we learn to protect it. Setting boundaries when it comes to time includes knowing what is important to us and setting priorities so that we don’t overcommit ourselves. Setting boundaries is incredibly important in this modern world of being available to others 24/7 because of cell phones, instant messaging and computers.


3. Material Boundaries

Using money and possessions to manipulate and control a relationship is a way of violating material boundaries.

When someone loses, breaks or steals things that they borrowed from us, they are violating our material boundaries.

It is important that we know how we want others to treat our possessions, and that we set boundaries to what we can and can’t share when it comes to our home, money, car, clothing or any other material possessions we have.  Setting boundaries is healthy and keeps resentment. from building up inside of us.


4. Emotional and Mental Boundaries

When we overshare our thoughts and feelings with anyone who will listen, even though we weren’t asked to, we are violating their emotional and mental boundaries.


When we assume we know how others feel, or ask others to justify their feelings, or dismiss and criticise their feelings, we are violating their emotional and mental boundaries.


When we ask inappropriate questions, expect others to have the same beliefs and thoughts we have, or insist that they overshare their thoughts, beliefs, and emotions with us, we are violating emotional and mental boundaries.


When we lack emotional and mental boundaries, we may tend to people-please without any regard to our own needs. We seem to continuously get involved in other people’s drama and have a deep-seated desire to “fix” people.


Do you have a tendency to make others responsible for your feelings? This boundary deals with respecting and honoring someone’s feelings and emotional energy,  and is probably the boundary many of us unwittingly violate most often.


5. Intellectual Boundaries

We have healthy intellectual boundaries when we respect other peoples’ thoughts and ideas without shutting them down, belittling them or criticising them. We are willing to be curious and try to understand the other person’s viewpoint.


Being curious about someone’s differing point of view doesn’t mean we have to accept remarks and viewpoints we consider homophobic, xenophobic, racist, sexist, or generally harmful to others. In When that happens we can set our boundaries by letting the person know we won’t tolerate that kind of talk, or we can distance ourselves from them or cut them off completely.


6. Sexual Boundaries

When we have healthy sexual boundaries we aren’t afraid of saying no to what we don’t want or to what hurts us. We are also able to speak up about what brings us pleasure. We have no problem talking about contraception or whether or not to use condoms.


We protect the right to privacy for ourselves and for others. This boundary is about consent, privacy, agreement, respect for self and others, and understanding preferences and desires. 


We violate sexual boundaries when we lie about our sexual history, and when we criticise our partner’s sexual desires or preferences.


We also violate sexual boundaries when we get angry, sulk or punish our partner for not giving in to our sexual demands, when we don’t ask for consent, or when we make unwanted suggestive comments.


Learn to Establish Healthy Boundaries

  1. You have to discover what your boundaries are first before you can define them. Ask yourself how you feel around certain people and certain situations. Do they make you feel good or bad? If it’s the latter, it’s time to make changes.
  2. Ask yourself what you hope to accomplish once you set  boundaries; is it inner peace? More time? More autonomy? More self-confidence?
  3. Identify your “why” by setting an intention. When you set an intention it becomes clearer in your mind, which makes it easier for you to practice letting others know what your boundaries are.
  4. Be objective when you state your boundaries to others. Always state boundaries using “I” or “me”sentences and not “you” sentences so that the other person doesn’t get defensive. If he or she gets defensive anyway, that is nor your problem.
  5. Recognise and accept that you will encounter stressful emotions. Since others have made it a habit to expect certain things from you; especially those closest to you, you can expect backlash when you begin to change. For example, if your mother is used to spending hours complaining on the phone about her health, she may call you selfish or claim you don’t love her when you begin cutting those calls short.

Go Easy On Yourself

This is hard work. It will be easiest to practise with people you don’t know or don’t know well before you move on to friends, partners, and family members.


You can practise ahead of time as to what you might say and how you might respond to negative comments or demands. Practice doing this out loud in front of a mirror.


It will be tempting to cave in to external pressure. It took a lifetime to build up these entanglements and patterns with family and friends. Old habits will not disappear overnight. Show yourself patience and compassion, especially when you fail to stand your ground.


With practice, it will become easier to develop the healthy boundaries you need to uphold healthy relationships that will leave you feeling good and whole, and not bad and depleted.


Here are examples, but always make sure your tone of voice and your facial expression is friendly and neutral:
  • Emotional and Mental Boundary: “Thank you for thinking of me. I wish I could, but now isn’t a good time.”
  • Time Resource Boundary: “What you have to say is important to me and I would love to listen to you but I need to xyz right now. I get stressed when I am late/pressed for time/not able to give it my best, etc.”
  • Material Boundary: “Please don’t help yourself to food off of my plate. I don’t like when people eat off of my plate or drink out of my glass. I’ll be happy to get something for you.”
  • Emotional and Mental Boundary: “I appreciate xyz. I’m not comfortable with xyz. Maybe we can (fill in an alternative here).”
  • Sexual Boundary: “This doesn’t feel good to me. But I really liked when you (xyz). Can you do that again?”
  • Material Boundary: “Sure, you can borrow this book but let’s take a picture of it and put a reminder in our calendars to return it because I have had quite a few people borrow books without returning them, and this one is one of my favorites.”
  • Time Resource Boundary: “This isn’t do-able for me.”
  • Sexual Boundary: “I don’t want to have sex tonight, but I am up for holding each other and cuddling. How does that sound?”
  • Time Resource Boundary: “I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
  • Emotional and Mental Boundary: “When I share my feelings with you and get critised, I feel shut down. I can’t share myself with you unless you can respond in a respectful manner.”
  • Time Resource Boundary: “I am happy to help with that. My hourly rate is xyz.”
  • Intellectual Boundary: “This conversation is important to me and I’d love to continue further, but I don’t think family dinner is a good time for it. Let’s set a time when we can focus on this more.”
  • Sexual Boundary: “Tell me what you like.”
  • Intellectual Boundary: “Thanks for your feedback. If I need your advice, I’ll let you know.”
  • Material Boundary: “I can’t lend out any more money but I’ll be happy to help out in some other way.”
  • Intellectual Boundary: “Let’s just agree to disagree.”
  • Intellectual Boundary: “I appreciated your feedback during the meeting. I did not like the tone in which it came across. It was unacceptable to me and made me feel talked down to. In the future, if you have anything you would like to clear up with me personally, please do so before we go into a meeting. I think a good team is important in the work place, don’t you?”
  • Physical Boundary: “I get uncomfortable when people get too close to me… could you take a step back please?”
  • Physical Boundary: “I am allergic to ( xyz) or I am on a diet and (xyz) so I can’t have that in my home / choose to eat other foods because I am looking out for my health.”

This example of how to handle disagreements while maintaining boundaries was taken from the best-selling book, “How to Do the Work” by Dr. Nicole LaPera:

“Is this a good time to speak about the fight we had? I thought about it and I think I reacted (xyz) and think I could have (xyz). I don’t like it when there is a rift between us and would like to clear the air, if that is okay. I am not okay with stooping to name calling during arguments and would appreciate it  if we don’t stoop to that level in future disagreements. What you have to say is important to me and I am open to listening to anything that can help us come closer. What do you think?”


The more we learn to set boundaries and practice setting them, the clearer we are about who we are, and the better we are able to follow our intuition. Knowing ourselves better, following our inner guidance system and clearly communicating this information to others may foster better relationships.

To learn more about how to communicate boundaries, contact me.

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