Your highest Self Care priority should be learning how to set clear and healthy boundaries that will allow you to live in alignment with the truth of who you are, and the way you want your life to generally unfold. Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships, a healthy body and an overall healthy existence. They can protect you from toxic people, maintain your energy levels, keep you safe and strong, and help you manage your feelings. Boundaries are truly beautiful, and good ones are the cornerstone of your wellbeing.
What are boundaries?
Boundaries are the energetic and physical space between you and another person. They are the line of where you end and another begins, and where you begin and another ends. Boundaries are also the parameters we set for ourselves within relationships. They can include physical, intellectual, emotional, material, energetic and time boundaries.
A person with healthy boundaries will have no trouble saying “no” when they want to, but also feel comfortable opening up to close relationships and intimacy. A person who always keeps others at a distance (whether emotionally, physically, or otherwise) is said to have rigid boundaries. Alternatively, someone who tends to get too involved with others has porous boundaries.
Healthy boundaries are balanced, and are defined by respecting your own opinions, staying true to your values, knowing and communicating your personal needs, sharing information in an appropriate way (not undersharing or oversharing), an ability to say “no”, and also accept “no” from others. Most people have a mix of different boundary types: for example, someone could have healthy boundaries at work, porous boundaries in intimate relationships, and a mix of all three types within their family unit.
Boundaries are the way we take care of ourselves. Boundaries define a healthy emotional and physical relationship between you and another so that you do not become overly enmeshed, smothered, attached, detached, or feel pressure to be something you are not, as well as maintain your personal identity and uniqueness. At the same time, they protect your right as an autonomous and free individual who has freedom to be a creative, original thinker and live life on your terms.
Healthy boundaries create happy and harmonious working relationships. If you don’t set boundaries, you are giving yourself away. By setting boundaries, we tell people in our lives who we are and what we need. We value ourselves and take a stand for what truly serves our highest good. We stop resenting or blaming others for doing things we don’t want to do, and step out of victim behaviour or toxic relationships that drain us.
People may feel boundaries are obstacles to connection, but healthy ones are the opposite. They enhance relationships and allow you to be, and to honour, who you really are. Boundaries allow you to show up in the world authentically, in your full truth and power. So give yourself the permission to set boundaries and work to preserve them.
The added power in living like this is in how it can inspire and give permission for others to do the same – a ripple effect of people taking a stand for their own self care through clear and healthy boundaries. Bliss.
Types of Boundaries
Having an awareness of what is appropriate to you in different situations is important. The main types of boundaries to consider are:
Physical Boundaries: Personal space (your body, your environment) and physical touch.
Emotional Boundaries: Yours and other’s feelings, and when and what to share.
Intellectual Boundaries: Thoughts and ideas — respect for others as well as your own. Discussion topics (eg politics, religion).
Material Boundaries: Money and possessions, including what you will share and with whom.
Time Boundaries: How you use your time for work, hobbies, self care, relationships. Who you will share with and how much.
Energetic Boundaries: Your psyche and spirit, or spiritual borders. When, how, and with whom we share our energy.
How to create Healthy Boundaries
Most of us don’t know how to set boundaries. We’ve been taught to put others ahead of ourselves, or grew up in households that didn’t teach healthy boundaries. When we move past ingrained habits or fears, we can act from a clean, clear space, so we can enjoy what we want, rather than always reacting or responding to someone else. This can be scary or feel foreign at first, but in time, learning to set boundaries will be the best thing you have ever done.
Setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill. Although new and challenging, with intention and practice, you can learn effective boundary setting to enhance every part of your life
A 5 Step Exercise for Setting Effective Boundaries
I invite you to follow this activity I created to more effectively establish healthy boundaries between yourself and others.
Taking several pieces of paper and pen, and identify the boundaries in your life that are rigid or porous that you can improve: Physical, Emotional, Energetic, Intellectual, Material, Time or all of the above. If you are happy with your boundaries in that area, good! Congratulate yourself. Write a heading for the other boundaries in the centre of each paper and draw a large circle around them, leaving some space to write outside the circle too.
For each category, identify and question the irrational or unhealthy beliefs or thinking by which you allow your boundaries to be ignored or violated: eg. “I’m not good enough”, or “I must do everything I can to spend as much time together with my family/partner/business”. Write them in small writing outside of the big circles.
Look at these beliefs: Are they true? Turnaround those beliefs: think of three real life examples you have where the opposite is true: eg “I am good enough because I have lots of friends who love me, I am good enough because I am a great parent, I am good enough because I have a heart that loves deeply” . Or “I’m allowed to take time for my own self care, my needs are important, my family/partner/business benefits when I pursue my own interests”. Write them inside the circle. Thank the old beliefs on the outside for their service to you, and lovingly retire them with a strikethrough.
Identify new behaviours you need to add to your repertoire in order to sustain healthy boundaries between you and others eg: saying “no”, keeping information to yourself, respecting your body, not lending money, asking for more time. Write them at the top of each page as a commitment: “To protect my boundaries I will…”
Hang your pages in a place where you will see them every day, or take photos of them to review each morning. Implement the new boundary building beliefs and behaviors in your life so that your space, privacy and rights are respected and you can live in your powerful truth.
Remember, it is not enough to just set boundaries, it is necessary to be willing to do what it takes to enforce them and honour them. Stay strong, don't give in. When you stand up for yourself, you teach others how to treat you. If people are unwilling to respect your boundaries, ask yourself if they are true friends or people you really want to spend time with. Setting personal boundaries and limits can be very important in how you lead your life and the quality of the relationships you have.
As you begin to set boundaries, remember that each time you set a healthy boundary, you say “yes” to self care and “yes” to more freedom. Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious, respect them and start a revolution.
— Victoria Lucille Fox, Founder, MISS FOX Melbourne
You can follow Victoria @victorialucillefox or join her online Self Care discussion here.