What are Boundaries and How to Maintain Them

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What are boundaries? Why are they important?

Boundaries are the lines that you draw in the sand for yourself. They are the limits you set for others based on your needs or wants. Boundaries are good and healthy to have. They are necessary to maintain your happiness, and self care in many aspects of life.  Boundaries help us to be comfortable with our surroundings, and relationships. We should share our boundaries and limits with people so they know where the line is drawn. Respected boundaries show you who is caring about you in your life. If there is a consistent need for someone to push those boundaries that you have set up, that you are not comfortable with expanding then you should voice it. Implementing boundaries is difficult, but rewarding. 

Areas to think about setting up boundaries in: 

Material Boundaries:

Determine if you can give or lend items to others. This includes books, clothes, and food but also money. How do you feel about lending your "stuff" to others? Do you still have enough of what ever you are giving to enjoy your life and cover needs and wants?

Physical Boundaries:

Determine the limits of personal space, privacy and body. How much physical contact you are comfortable giving when meeting someone (hug, kiss, handshake, or no physical contact). This also includes the physical spaces that you are in, a small room, large crowd, etc. Are you comfortable with loud music or flashing light? What are the limits of senses? What are the limits of your physical space, and physical being?

Mental Boundaries:

These boundaries deal with your thoughts, values, and opinions. Do you know what you believe? Do you cave easily to peer pressure? Do you stand by your values and opinions? Do you become highly rigid when someone else's opinion conflicts with your own? If you do become highly emotional, argumentative, or defensive, you may have weak emotional boundaries.

Emotional Boundaries:

Are you able to separate your responsibility for your emotions and some one else's? Healthy boundaries prevent you from blaming and accepting blame when they are not yours to give or accept. Emotional boundaries protect you from feeling guilty about someone's negative feelings or problems. They also protect you from taking other's comments personally. 

How to set up boundaries?

1. Know your self. Think about each area that you could be setting up boundaries in. Think about when you say yes, but you really want to say no. Make a list of these occurrences. Nothing has to be a definite, always or never. Just be aware of how you felt in those moments. 

2. Decide what your limit or boundary is for these occurrences. Do you need to draw a line in the sand for your happiness? Think about how these limits and boundaries will be positively affecting your life. 

3. Be honest with others about how you feel. Remember that you are responsible for your emotions, not other people's and their reactions to your boundaries. 

What to do when someone doesn't respect your boundaries?

First ask yourself are your words and actions contradictory. Do you allow someone to cross the boundaries you have established because of "it was just once", "its not a big deal this time", or some emotional reason on the other persons side made you feel guilty for keeping to the boundary. If you are not conveying your boundaries clearly, and with conviction then people won't believe that you are going to hold to them. And when people test those boundaries, because people will, you must maintain them. There must be consequences to not respecting your boundaries. 

Example: You allow people to borrow your books, but require them to bring it back within one week. You communicate clearly and effectively that you want the book back in a week and if they don't return it in a week then they are no longer allowed to borrow books from you. When someone does not bring back the book in the allotted time there is a consequence of not being able to borrow books again. Some may find this a severe consequence for a book. But it is your request that they are not respecting. It really isn't about the book, but about your words having meaning and getting respect. You established a boundary and now you follow through with it.  

Example: You and your mother have a tenuous relationship. You believe she is overly negative towards you and your goals. So you establish a boundary. You tell you mother that you no longer want to hear her opinion and negative attitude towards your chosen lifestyle and profession. If she continues with the negativity you will have to limit your contact with her. This is not a punishment for your mother. This is a boundary to protect yourself, your positivity, and good energy. So when your mother is negative again about your profession you tell your mother you will speak to her in a couple of days, weeks. You require space and no longer need that sort of negativity in your life. You don't talk to your mother for the amount of time you set up as a consequence. You established a boundary and enforced it. 

 Boundaries can be difficult to spot when they are needed in your life. It can feel uncomfortable and especially selfish at first, but boundaries are not acts of selfishness. They are a healthy  awareness of yourself and self care. Boundaries save you future emotional strife, where do you need to start setting more boundaries? 

Resources: psychcentral.com 

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