Healthy Boundaries

A book I frequently recommend to clients, Better Boundaries, by Jan Black and 20151009_160245-1(2)Greg Enns, states that healthy boundaries are needed in order to value and own yourself and your life. “Personal boundaries are a set of flexible and inflexible limits [established by you] that let good in and keep bad out” (Black & Enns, p. 13). Here are two more definitions:

Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others.

A limit or space between you and the other person; a clear place where you begin and the other person ends.

So if boundaries are needed in order to value and own yourself and your life – how do we get them? And, if boundaries are so important, why do so many of us seem to struggle with either creating them or maintaining them?

Whatever boundaries we have, we probably learned them from our families of origin or early caregivers. The norms of our families informally throughout our lives and from our families’ cultures and dynamics. If you grew up in a situation where very few boundaries were in place and/or respected, then you may be unaware that your boundaries are being crossed, or that you are crossing the boundaries of others. Perhaps there were no choices for you, or the opposite – no structure at all and you are unaware of your own or other people’s limits and boundaries. If you came from the kind of family where children had little or no voice, where feelings and opinions were not encouraged,  you may struggle with assertiveness, feel powerless at times and unable to speak up for yourself. You may also have hard time saying no to people, feel like you have no say, or that everyone else comes first.  In homes where there was any form of abuse, boundaries are often weak or non-existent. It is possible though, to learn boundaries through other more positive experiences. As you get older and more independent, you might see healthy boundaries in place in other environments and adopt those ways for yourself. Boundaries can be learned at any time, as long as you are aware you have the right to personal boundaries.

Boundaries are closely related to assertiveness; by having personal boundaries in place, you will be more likely to assert yourself. Boundaries demonstrate to you and to others that you have self-respect and self-worth, which are important components of health and happiness. By adopting a self-care philosophy that demonstrates to you and those around you that you value and respect your self, you can improve self-worth and when you treat yourself better, you won’t settle for less from others. You will also be more compassionate toward others, but with boundaries in place you won’t become absorbed in their problems.

It takes courage to make changes like these if you’re not accustomed to having personal boundaries in place, saying no to people’s requests and demands, and allowing yourself time to care of you. The first step is knowing you have the right to personal boundaries. Read more about the role boundaries can play in your life, and start implementing some small changes that can help you feel stronger.

For tips on assertiveness, visit this web site:

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