Boundaries – What are they and why do you need them?

Posted by on Nov 17, 2011 in Blog | 0 comments

Boundaries – What are they and why do you need them?

Sometimes people find themselves bending over backwards for others and then experience resentment towards that person. The truth is when we choose to step over our own boundaries, it is nobody’s fault but our own. Having healthy boundaries can help you maintain your inner peace when the outside may be full of turmoil and uncertainty.

Boundaries will help you express what you will accept from others, in terms of behavior. For example if someone calls you a name and you do not draw the line that calling you a name is unacceptable then you have put that “in bounds”, or ok for the other person to do. By letting them know that it is not ok, you are setting your boundary or establishing it as unacceptable behavior.

The good news is that even if you find yourself around people that treat you poorly, you can draw the line at anytime. When you draw the line you are enforcing your boundaries, treating yourself with respect and love, and teaching others how to treat you. When someone treats you poorly and steps over that line you have a right to make them aware of it. Enforcing your boundaries just means verbalizing how you would like someone to treat you and letting them know when they are crossing that line. How can others really know if you don’t correct them when they violate your boundaries. This can be as simple as “I don’t like when you make fun of me like that, please don’t do it anymore.”

Your boundaries will be tested. Growing up we learn a lot about what is acceptable and what isn’t, and these can vary greatly from family to family. Your boundaries will be tested by those who might not understand why you particularly don’t like something or if your boundaries are different than the ones that were established in their family of origin or past relationships. However, you have every right to create the rules on how you would like to be treated. You also have the choice to determine how many times you are going to remind someone about your personal boundaries before you choose not to be bothered with them anymore.  Some boundaries that people test might include: how they want to talk to you, using unwanted nick names for you, being sarcastic when around you, or communicating passive aggressively towards you.

Boundaries do not just include what people do to you but what you do for others. Don’t forget about how you treat others, those are boundaries too. Not being conscious of how much you are willing to give others could leave you depleted and resentful towards those you care about. You might end up feeling used up and thrown out but the bottom line is that we all have the choice to give or not to give. When we give more than we are capable of emotionally, without getting anything back in return, we can be left with a big pile of resentment.  Some boundary pushing issues that seem to come up in relationships a lot include how much you are going to clean up after your partner, how often will you spend time with your partner verses have time alone or with your friends, how often will you give up what you want to do to do something that your partner wants to do, and the list can go on and on. Additionally, boundaries can tell you when you are uncomfortable treating someone poorly. For example, if you are with a partner who beats themselves up or makes fun of them self in a way that makes you uncomfortable, you can enforce a boundary that you will not join in and you don’t like them referring to them self in that way. Nobody likes to see or hear a loved one abuse them self. You can set a boundary letting them know that it is not ok to treat them self in that way or allow others to treat them that way.

How often will you choose to move your line for others? How will you know that you are doing it or whether or not you should be flexible? All these questions are normal and can confuse things. Going with your gut is always a good meter to determine whether or not you are uncomfortable with something. If you feel angry for doing something for someone else, as though you were taken advantage of, that could be a sign that you overstepped your own boundary. Although you did it once and you can recognize that sign, it doesn’t mean it has to happen again! At least you might become familiar with that feeling and learn to trust it in the future and make different choices to preserve your boundaries.