Have you ever felt uncomfortable and had a feeling that you were being pushed into a corner when interacting with someone? If so, chances are that the person in question violated a boundary that you considered sacred. As a practising therapist, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of establishing healthy boundaries in our journey of inner-growth and healing. Yet, this remains grossly misunderstood and judged.
What Are Healthy Boundaries?
Healthy boundaries are a set of rules or guidelines that we set for ourselves, defining how we behave with others, respond to situations, and consequently a directive of how we expect others to treat us. Self-honesty and awareness are the two main pillars on which healthy boundaries are created. They are essential in identifying and practising personal integrity.
Healthy boundaries usually have these characteristics:
- The limits set are clear and reasonable.
- Boundaries are based on your needs as well as the needs of others.
- It comes from the intention of being authentic.
- Boundaries are not based on other’s approval or from the feeling of being a victim.
- The limits help channel any anger or frustration into positive action rather than aggressive behaviour or a shutdown.
- Boundaries are not based on fear, guilt, or shame.
- The boundaries are based on what reality is, not on expectations of what it should be.
Common Myths About Boundaries
The most common myth is that setting boundaries means being selfish or narcissistic. On the contrary, setting boundaries means ensuring role and identity clarity for ourselves and others. ‘Setting boundaries makes us lonely, unwanted, and isolated’ is another myth, and this comes from a deep fear of rejection and validation. Boundaries actually help us overcome this fear. They provide a haven to experiment, heal, and integrate lost parts of our own selves.
Benefits of Establishing Healthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries are certainly a very important ingredient for self-care and self-compassion. They help protect our sense of self and identity. They keep us safe and relaxed, both emotionally and physically. Boundaries also develop into a subtle yet firm way of speaking our truth, and it builds self-confidence and empowers our inner being paving the way for wellness in your life.
Top Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries
- Take Baby Steps: If you are making a start, start small and choose easy goals. Begin by setting and practising simple boundaries and then move on to the more challenging ones. Build on your small successes, rather than trying to prove a point.
- Set an Intention and Follow Through: Don’t beat around the bush, and be direct instead. Define your boundaries and write them down, if required. Be crystal clear of your intention before you begin.
- Speak Up: Communicate and communicate more. Speaking out loud not only helps others, but also brings clarity to you. Choose to be assertive.
- Be Mindful: Honour other people’s boundaries. Be self-aware and build awareness of others’ boundaries.
- Seek Professional Help: Contact a trusted mental health practitioner and let them assist you in your journey.
Boundaries are not a cue for healthy relationships – they are the foundation for self-love and self-respect, so give yourself permission to set boundaries and hold them in high regard.