Healthy boundaries are not walls
Just because you are setting personal boundaries, it doesn’t mean you will isolate yourself and keep everyone away from you. Maysie Tift, a licensed marriage and family therapist, says “When boundaries are too rigid or inflexible, problems can occur.” Healthy boundaries need to be flexible yet firm. It should not build a wall around you to avoid closeness. You need to reassess and update your boundaries occasionally. However, it should not be too flexible either. You need to find the perfect balance when setting healthy boundaries. Tift adds that “an overly sacrificing approach to relationships creates imbalance or exploitation.”
The purpose of establishing healthy boundaries is to allow others into your life while asking them to respect your personal space, beliefs, values and limits. By communicating your boundaries clearly, you help others understand how they need to treat you, what is acceptable to you and how they can make you comfortable to be closer to you.
It is obvious that a stranger or a new friend might not be aware of your personal boundaries just like you might be oblivious to theirs. Hence, communicating your values and beliefs is a crucial step to creating healthy boundaries. “Boundaries show you where you end and someone else begins. Setting boundaries is healthy and a sign of responsibility. When you set boundaries, you express your respect to yourself, others, your time, and your talents,” adds Luay Rahil.
What healthy boundaries look like
Psychologist and coach Dana Gionta, Ph.D. says having healthy personal boundaries refers to “knowing and understanding what your limits are.”
However, the question remains, “What do healthy boundaries look like?” Here’s how you might feel when you have healthy personal boundaries based on your mental, emotional and physical needs, as explained by Kristen Sohlman, HBA, RP:
- You clearly understand your needs, wants and desires and successfully communicate them to others in relationships
- You refuse to accept disrespect and abuse
- You feel free to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when you feel like it and easily accept it when others say it to you
- You are responsible, dedicated and determined to discover and achieve your fullest potential
- You have a strong sense of self-respect and self-identity
- You feel responsible for your own success, failures, happiness and sorrow
- You can easily choose to share power and responsibility
- You expect your relationships to be reciprocal and mutual
- You never compromise your beliefs, integrity or values to gain attention or avoid rejection
- You have no problem asking for help when needed
- You understand your own limits and don’t allow others to define the limits for you
- You respect your own feelings and opinions as well as others
- You gradually share intimate information in a trusting and mutual sharing relationship
- You can identify when it’s your problem and when it’s not
Read also: Tips to Cope with Personal Space Intruders
The secret to setting healthy boundaries
Learn to say no. If you want to set healthy boundaries and want others to respect them, then you need to learn how to say ‘no’ to people. Saying ‘no’ is not easy most of the time, especially when you have to say it to your family members or your managers at work. However, you need to know how to be assertive yet respectable. You also need to realize that you can’t help and rescue everyone around you.
Psychiatrist and author Abigail Brenner, M.D. explains “Fixing others is a way of trying to get love, attention, and/or validation. It’s a waste of your time and energy to try to fix them because, bottom line, they’re not interested in becoming any other way than they are.” Everyone is responsible for themselves. It is not your job to save everyone and fix their problems. Let people fail as that’s the only way they can learn.
Luay Rahil writes “If you are unable to say ‘no’, you will have a hard time defining your boundaries.” You are not responsible for making people happy. You are only responsible for treating others with respect, kindness and love. Rahil adds “Your no may cause some discomfort and you need to be comfortable with that. No to other people often means yes to yourself, and it can be an improvement opportunity for the other party. Your no is your boundary, so use it wisely.”