Recently, many of clients have been coming to me with questions about personal boundaries to help them with feeling overwhelmed or suffocated by others. At the same time, it comes as no surprise that some clients look at me with a blank expression in their face when I mention the word ‘BOUNDARY’. Let’s have a closer look at what personal boundaries are.
Personal boundaries are our own limits that we are willing to go up to in our day-to-day lives, without putting any unnecessary pressure on ourselves or our mental wellbeing. If you find saying ‘NO’ to people hard for example, you might like to keep reading.
There are 5 main categories of boundaries: EMOTIONAL, MENTAL, PHYSICAL, MATERIAL, TIME.
We learn our boundaries from our significant others (parents, teachers, etc.) and use our own experiences to adjust them or to set new ones as we go through life. For some of us, boundaries were never on our radar. That doesn’t mean it’s too late, but it may require rolling up the sleeves.
Our boundaries can be healthy or unhealthy. Unhealthy boundaries represent boundaries that are rigid, weak or blurred. Healthy boundaries tend to be clearly defined in our minds whilst staying open to flexibility and adjustment as our life circumstances change.
Emotional boundaries set the limits on how much responsibility we take for another’s feelings or our own. If you struggle to say ‘NO’ to others, if you take on other person’s feelings as your own, if you don’t take responsibility for how you feel and blame it on others, your boundaries would be classed as unhealthy or non-existent.
- I feel overwhelmed with the amount of work I have on my desk. I feel like I have to please everyone so that they like me.
- I feel so frustrated. She just comes over, off-loads all her ‘crap’ without even asking and then leaves. And I am left with it.
- I feel scared coming home. My dad always blames everything on me. It makes me feel so small and worthless.
Mental boundaries represent the freedom of having our own beliefs, values or opinions. Others may try and push you to think and believe in what they do.
If you can stick to and communicate your own beliefs and opinions assertively, you win. If you take on other’s values and beliefs, your boundaries may be weak or non-existent. It may feel like you are loosing your own identity.
- What if they don’t like me if I disagree with their opinion? I’ll look stupid.
- I respect your opinion about the government’s handling of the pandemic and I also have my own.
- Friend: ‘You really need to stop running, it’s not good for your knees’. Me: ‘I appreciate your concern, but I enjoy running and will keep at it’.
Material boundaries are the limits we set around our possessions or finances. How you want your possessions to be treated by others, when they can be used or how much you are willing to lend a friend in need and under what conditions.
- You can only use my car at the weekend when I am not using it.
- We split the rent and monthly bills 50/50.
- Please take your shoes off when you come and visit.
Time boundaries are the limits we set around time, lateness, favours or when you can be contacted. Or the limits you set for yourself around how much time you give to different activities/duties/people around you.
- If you are going to be late for our meeting, please let me know.
- I can speak to you about your personal life after work.
- Ok, I’m going to try and minimise my screen time in the evenings – 1 hour maximum.
- Identify all your boundaries you have in place right now – write them all down.
- Do you feel that they are all respected by yourself and others?
- If NOT, which ones do you need to strengthen?