Brushing Up on Personal Boundaries

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It’s hard to believe we are already nearing the end of 2021. The holiday season is right around the corner and this can lead to many mixed emotions and overwhelm. That said, this is a great time to improve or brush up on boundary setting in your personal relationships with your partner, family, friends, and in the workplace.

What are “boundaries” and why do healthy boundaries matter?

Adopting healthy boundaries protects your emotional well-being to prevent emotional and physical burnout, and social isolation. Boundaries, like a fence with a gate, are the limits and expectations you set for yourself and others and are enforced using effective communication. Think of the gate as the communication gateway and the fence as your limits and expectations.

Here are some key take-aways from boundary work:

  • It can feel messy at times 
      • If saying “no” rarely exists in your conversations or you’re feeling enmeshed in your personal relationships, introducing this assertive communication style may feel unnatural at first (and that’s ok)
  • What are your values?
      • Ask yourself: “Am I respecting my own values?” If your boundaries do not align with your values you may feel stressed, anxious, or hold resentment toward others
      • What limits and expectations do you need to set for yourself in family relationships, at your job, in your friendships, and within your community?
      • Check out this values exploration exercise
  • When boundaries become inconsistent or inflexible
  • Boundaries can be soft or porous, and you may find that you are not putting your needs first
      • On the other hand, certain boundaries may be rigid, and you may find yourself guarded in relationships
  • Healthy boundaries
  • Healthy boundaries align with your values, and you will be comfortable saying “no” when you need to, and hearing “no” from others
  • Assert yourself
    • Boundary types look different for everyone and can be soft in some areas of your life and rigid in others. 
    • Saying “no” asserts your needs while valuing your relationships. 
    • Being assertive involves communicating needs with kindness and respect for others, vulnerability, and self-worth and self-respect

Poor boundaries can be a result of insecure attachment in childhood, complex trauma, low self-esteem or self-worth, amongst other reasons. And they may have served a purpose for you at one point in your life to provide a sense of safety and security. If you’re noticing that your boundaries are no longer serving you, we can help.

As always, if you need support in navigating interpersonal relationships and boundary setting, please reach out. Remember to be kind to yourself as you reflect on your relationships. 

Click here for a free worksheet and handout through Therapist Aid.

References and Additional Reading

Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every DayAnne Katherine, MA

Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin by Anne Katherine, MA 

“Boundaries 101”. The Calm Mama Method. thecalmmamamethod.com

Attached – Amir Levine, MD, & Rachel S.F. Heller, MA 

“Boundaries and the Self”. Dr. Arielle Schwart. https://drarielleschwartz.com/boundaries-and-the-self-dr-arielle-schwartz/#.YYrkEBrMJnI

“Setting Boundaries and Setting Limits”. R. Skip Johnson https://bpdfamily.com/content/setting-boundaries

By Christin Speiran, BA, MA, Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying)

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