We hear a lot of people talk about the importance of setting boundaries, but what exactly does that entail? So many people aren’t sure how to establish proper boundaries because they were never taught how to do so. Perhaps their parents regularly invaded boundaries or were regularly taken advantage of. If we never had a good example, we can invade others’ personal space and/or allow others to invade ours.
Not knowing how to establish healthy boundaries can have dire consequences for our mental and physical well-being. If you or a loved one feels exploited, here is what to know about the importance of setting boundaries, along with some top tips to get started.
The Importance of Setting Boundaries
Boundaries are not necessarily thick sets of lines drawn in the sand to keep people away from us. Rather, they exist to ensure others know how we wish to be treated. They are the best way for us to demonstrate that we know how to take care of ourselves.
If we don’t know how to set boundaries, we tend to let people walk over us. This can lead to feelings of resentment, frustration, anger, and disappointment. We may even start avoiding other people because we think they will eventually take advantage of us.
People typically treat us the way we teach them to treat us. If we struggle to say no or regularly allow people to invade our privacy, others will intuitively know they can get away with bad behavior when they are around us. Even the most well-intentioned people tend to take advantage of those with limited boundaries because they may honestly think that it doesn’t bother the other person. In other words, if we don’t tell someone that they are crossing a line, they will continue to cross it. This is why it’s so critical to establish healthy boundaries with our friends, family members, and partners.
But furthermore, healthy boundaries are the cornerstone that reflects our self-esteem and self-worth. Without them, we will fall into anxiety, depression, and resentment. Contrary to our fears, establishing boundaries will not push people away, but will improve our relationships. We will be less anxious and angry, and others will treat us with greater respect.
Types of Boundaries
There are 5 main types of boundaries that every person needs to establish. These include:
· Physical – How people touch you, interact with you, or invade your space.
· Sexual – How others interact with you on an intimate level, and what behavior you expect from an intimate relationship.
· Intellectual – Boundaries concerning your opinions, viewpoints, or thoughts and how others react to them.
· Emotional – How you choose to share feelings and how you expect others to react to your feelings.
· Financial – Concerning your financial well-being and the way others treat your money and time.
Tips to Set Healthy Boundaries
Here are some top tips to establish healthy boundaries with others in your life.
· Reflect – Reflect on your personal beliefs and why they matter to you. A boundary may exist to keep people out entirely rather than to have others respect you. If so, talk to a counselor who can help you sort through these feelings.
· Begin Small – Start setting small boundaries that aren’t as overwhelming. Once you get comfortable setting these and keeping them, it will be easier to set others. Pay attention to how much better it feels when others respect your small boundaries.
· Start Early – If you allow others to take advantage of you early on, it will be harder to make them stop. In a new relationship, decide what type of boundaries to set and begin on Day 1.
· Show Consistency – If you set a boundary, keep it. Don’t give in if guilt-tripped, because it will only pave the way for further guilt-tripping. Eventually, people will learn how you expect to be treated.
· Communicate – Explain to others why you set certain boundaries. This is particularly crucial when it comes to family members, who may take answers like “no” personally. If you don’t communicate, they may get offended.
· Ask for Help – If you have low self-esteem and struggle to establish boundaries, ask a therapist for help. He or she can help you get to the root cause of your fears so you can move forward and set healthy boundaries in the future.
Do you struggle to set healthy boundaries with friends and family members? If so, please contact Straight Talk Clinic at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.