B is for……Boundaries

| Amanda Bloom, LCMHC

B is for…….boundaries. What did you think I was going to say? If you sit in session with me you will probably hear me use the B-word… a lot. Why? Because boundaries are a crucial element to your mental health and for cultivating healthy personal relationships. So what does it mean to have boundaries? Basically, it is teaching others what is okay and not okay. It means setting parameters as to what you are willing to do and not do, what is acceptable and unacceptable to you. Personal boundaries are limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. 

Setting personal boundaries is a way to prevent us from feeling taken advantage of, burned out, or in need of defending ourselves. It can prevent us from developing unnecessary resentments by explaining to others what is not okay. A person with healthy boundaries is able to say ‘no’ effectively. Speaking your truth can be scary. Most of us want to be liked and we can get wrapped up with seeking approval from others. We worry about what other people will think and don’t want to disappoint others. This means you might say “yes” to things like volunteering at your child’s school, taking on an additional project, or making plans with a friend when you are already feeling stretched too thin. Setting boundaries is not easy. It means we need to be willing to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations for the sake of our own mental health and for the benefit of our relationships. If we don’t protect our personal boundaries for our own self-care then who will?  When we are clear with our boundaries about what is okay and not okay, it allows us to be more compassionate, loving and empathetic in our relationships. Choose discomfort over resentment. 

Some things to consider would be to think about where you need to set boundaries in your life and with whom. We have different types of boundaries including physical, intellectual, emotional, sexual, material and time boundaries. What do you do if you feel someone has violated one of your boundaries? You want to be careful to avoid blaming or shaming the other person. I recommend using “I” statements to express how you feel and how you have been impacted. This is a technique to take accountability for your own feelings while also describing the problem.  For example, “I feel anxious when you come home late without calling because I worry that something bad happened to you.” Some of us might get that far in the conversation to explain our feelings and then assume that the other person should know what we want. However, we need to explicitly and directly ask for what it is we want to see happen. So, to complete the conversation, we would say “I would like for you to call me and let me know if you are running late.” Setting a boundary means using assertive communication skills to express how you feel and to ask for what it is you want. 

A person with healthy boundaries does does not compromise their values for others.They share information in a way that is appropriate, meaning they do not over share or under share personal information. They know and understand their personal wants and needs and can communicate that. They are also accepting when others say ‘no’ to them. The appropriateness of boundaries depends largely on the setting. For example, how you interact while you are out with friends might be quite different than how you relate to coworkers in the workplace. 

Who do you struggle to set boundaries with? What could you do to improve these boundaries? Imagine how your life would be different once you establish healthy boundaries. 

Today's the day to make a change.