This blog is to help those of us who feel like we cannot say no and as a result, become frustrated and overwhelmed, because we have spread ourselves too thinly. Often we can feel torn between promises to family, friends, work responsibilities, financial obligations. Having too many commitments that emotionally and physically drain us can lead us to feel that we are not in control of our lives.
Healthy boundaries are crucial for emotional, physical and relational health, as well as our care and respect towards ourselves and others. When there is no clear partition between our and others’ needs and feelings, relationships can suffer and eventually may result in feelings of resentment, disappointment, or even violation. Most people are not trying to violate our boundaries—they just aren’t aware of what they are, this is because, often, we are not clear with ourselves and ultimately others about what we want or need
So, what are boundaries? They are decisions that we make often subconsciously, which direct our behaviour and the way we interact with others. Another way of looking at boundaries is seeing them as to where we decide to draw our line in the sand. To better understand where our lines lie we must listen to our inner voice that says “I will go that far and no further.”
Emotional boundaries are about respecting our own feelings and knowing our worth. It is crucial that we care for our own needs before we can have healthy relationships and interactions with others. Setting emotional boundaries means recognising how much emotional energy we are capable of taking in and knowing when to and when not to share that energy. Respecting emotional boundaries means validating our feelings as well as others. When our thoughts, feelings and ideas are dismissed or belittled, we can feel let down, disappointed and disrespected.
Healthy dialogue is crucial in all relationships. In order to achieve healthy dialogue, we must respect the thoughts, feelings and ideas of other people. This does not mean that we need to be accepting of all thoughts and opinions. You are entitled to your opinion and have the right to disagree, but there are ways to do this respectfully and democratically. It is important to recognise the difference between healthy and unhealthy dialogue. If someone is sharing an opinion that is harmful—i.e., racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc.—then we have every right to draw a line in the sand. No one needs to have a dialogue with someone that is violating you or other people. Setting our own personal boundaries may include, letting the person know that you are not willing to tolerate that kind of conversation.
Our time is precious, so it is important to protect how we utilize it. Setting time boundaries is incredibly important at work, home, and socially, otherwise, we become frazzled, overwhelmed and burnt-out. Time boundaries mean understanding our priorities and setting aside enough time for areas in our own life that are important to us, without overcommitting to others. You may wish to set yourself some ‘non-negotiables’ – things that you promise yourself you will do on a regular basis for you! When we understand our own priorities, it becomes easier to manage the amount of time we can healthily give to others.
Physical boundaries include our physical need for rest, food and drink. It also includes understanding our personal space, what we feel comfortable with. It is okay to let people know that we feel uncomfortable, when our personal space feels violated, that we do not like to be touched in certain ways, or prefer a handshake rather than a hug.
Healthy sexual boundaries include respect, consent, compassion, understanding of preferences and desires, and privacy. It is important with sexual boundaries like all others to be vocal and honest with yourself and others regarding what makes you feel comfortable and equally uncomfortable.
Messy boundaries can result in a messy and chaotic life. The more we learn to recognise our own boundaries as well as others, the easier it becomes to set clear boundaries. Achieving this helps to avoid misunderstandings and conflict.
In the words of Brené Brown, “Clear is kind.”
Be well Pip x