A boundary is the line in the sand that is drawn between what is and what is not acceptable behavior, toward oneself. We have physical, emotional and mental boundaries which we should be setting in all of our relationships. Boundaries help us feel safe, secure and comfortable and help us define how others treat us. The idea is to have firm but flexible boundaries, you do not feel as though you are a controlling person and you may need to adapt some of your boundaries to different situations.
At times we may feel uncomfortable in relationships and in the moment we can not figure out why we are feeling this way. A question you should ask yourself, "Is there a boundary violation happening?" For example, someone is a close talker and moves into your personal space, you may feel some discomfort. It may take a few minutes or even days to figure out why you feel this way when this person comes over to your desk to speak with you. They are breaching your boundary of personal space. Another example is if you are interacting with a friend, family member or your partner and during the interaction, you start to feel resentment toward this person. You may feel they are taking advantage of you in some way, this may be a boundary breach. The next question to ask yourself is "Did I set this boundary?" It is your responsibility to take care of yourself, and set appropriate boundaries for you. If you did set the boundary and it is being violated, ask yourself "What should I do about this breach?"
Boundary setting can feel daunting at times, especially if you generally have loose boundaries. You may feel a little anxious setting limits and may be concerned about possible conflict, retribution in the workforce, being perceived as mean or feeling guilty. You may have many other feelings regarding boundary setting, they are real feelings but should not necessarily stop your boundary setting. Here are some tips for boundary setting.
5 tips for healthy boundary setting:
1. Be direct: State your boundary in a clear and concise manner, so people know exactly where you stand and what behavior is acceptable to you.
2. Saying no: Give yourself permission to say no. Saying no helps maintain boundaries and sets clear limits for what you are and are not willing to tolerate.
3. Practice self care: Self care is important in setting and maintaining boundaries as you need to start putting yourself first, at times. This will help you set limits as boundary setting is a part of self care.
4. Self awareness: Be tuned into your feelings in situations as they are the key to determining if boundaries need to be set. This will also help with recognizing boundary breaches or if someone is trying to push your boundaries.
5. Be assertive: Be assertive and polite when setting boundaries and when maintaining your boundaries during possible breaches. Assertive is not the same as aggressive and you should not become aggressive when setting or maintaining boundaries.
Many people feel that setting boundaries is selfish and that is not true. They help us define where each of us end and the other person begins. The limits we set help us to separate out who we are, our thoughts and feelings, from others in our lives. They improve our self concept and assist us in moving toward healthier relationships.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and not meant to be a replacement for therapy or treatment.
Dr. Deb is a successful Psychologist who practices in New York City. She is an Anxiety Specialist who works with adolescents and adults providing both individual and couples counseling.
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Debra O'Shea, Psy.D PLLC
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