Boundaries are often perceived as a sign of indifference or rejection, specifically designed to keep people out. However, boundaries actually give us the space to develop and experience our own individual identities, identify our needs, values and priorities, and allow us the opportunity to practice self care. Setting personal limits is crucial for safeguarding our own emotional and mental well-being, which in turn allow us to develop healthy relationships with others, be it with a romantic partner, friends, family members or even co-workers. They also allow others the opportunity to understand how best to connect and interact with us.
Boundaries are highly personal and differ between individuals and situations, so it is important to first reflect on what is important to you, what your personal limits are and how far you are willing to tolerate any violation. They don’t have to be set in stone – boundaries can evolve as needs and priorities change over time through various life circumstances. It may seem daunting and challenging to recognize personal limitations while also communicating them to people around us in a kind, yet assertive way. Ultimately, boundaries, when established and maintained appropriately, allow us to be authentic versions of ourselves and to develop the confidence needed to navigate various relationships in our lives. Here are some common situations where setting and maintaining personal boundaries can help protect our self-esteem and overall wellbeing.
Boundaries in romantic relationships – Defining emotional and physical boundaries early on in a romantic relationship can ensure that both partners are on the same page and have a clear understanding of each other’s expectations. This can help lay the foundation for a healthy relationship and avoid misunderstanding, hurt and resentment down the road. Some examples can include having discussions about each partners’ expectations and varying levels of comfort regarding physical intimacy, what each person’s needs are regarding privacy and alone time, how to handle stress and setbacks, and how to navigate financial decisions, just to name a few. While these conversations may be uncomfortable, they ultimately help build trust and understanding within the relationship – or raise important red flags that indicate unhealthy relationships that may not survive the long haul.
Boundaries with friends and family – When close family members and long-term friends are intricately involved in our lives, it can often blur personal boundaries and lead us to taking each other for granted. Our own personal needs and wants can often fall by the wayside when we invest our time and energy caring for loved ones or accommodating everyone’s else’s needs above our own. Saying no isn’t something most of us feel comfortable doing since we don’t want to appear rude or selfish or let our loved ones down. However, this can negatively impact our emotional and mental health, especially when being there for others comes at a personal cost. It is okay to turn down invitations when you need to unwind and recharge, or ask to be not involved when being called upon to resolve a family dispute that may not concern you, or let your loved one know that you aren’t in the best possible headspace to help them now because you are handling your own challenges. Whatever the scenario, be honest and assertive when advocating for your own needs – it is important to take care of ourselves first before we can care for those we love.
Social media boundaries – We’ve all experienced the overwhelming pull of social media in our daily lives and how it can often feed into our insecurities regarding body image, state of personal finances, relationship goals, travel aspirations and so forth. Setting boundaries around media and social media consumption can provide a healthy break from consciously or subconsciously comparing our lives to the picture-perfect representations of other people’s lives. Limit screen time or social media use for at least an hour or two each day while you engage in other activities like reading a book, spending time with family, exercising, etc. Feel free to unfollow, mute or block any people or accounts you follow that add negativity to your life.
Boundaries with yourself – Boundaries you set with yourself are equally important as boundaries you set with others. This can include recognizing and limiting any unhealthy or unproductive patterns of thought or behaviour that cause undue stress and anxiety or lower your confidence and self-esteem. Or it can be setting expectations and goals for yourself like limiting unnecessary spending to grow your savings or disciplining yourself to have a healthier diet and incorporating more exercise into your routine. The challenge here is that there is no one else to hold you accountable when you disregard your own boundaries. If you find yourself falling into that habit, entrust a friend or family member to hold you accountable who will encourage you to maintain your discipline so that you can meet your own goals.