OCS quick links

OCS quick links

Understanding Boundaries - Healthy and Unhealthy Boundaries

Boundaries are our personal rules and limits, they help us establish and relay what is acceptable in terms of behaviour, communication, and interaction. 

Boundaries are the framework we set for ourselves, on how we want to be treated and how we treat others, they are the foundation of healthy relationships. Healthy boundaries are an important tool needed to make sure you have your needs met. They allow us to:

Retain our identity.
Prevent others from taking advantage of or manipulating us.
Promote healthy relationships.
Allow us to be appropriately assertive.
Establish empathy for others.

There are 8 main types of Boundaries

1. Physical Boundaries
These boundaries are around our physical limits and personal space needs.

The forms of physical contact you are comfortable having with your partner, family, friends, colleagues, or strangers.

Body autonomy
Having control over who touches your body and when in social and personal encounters.

Personal space
The amount of space you feel comfortable being around others.

Physical Boundaries sound like:
"I've had a really tough week, I need some time to myself to rest."
"Please do not touch me like that again."
"Please knock before coming into my room."
"I'm going to sit down first and grab a glass of water."

2. Emotional Boundaries
These boundaries involve how you feel, who you engage with, and what parts of yourself you share.

Control of how much you share about your personal life and emotions.

The level of emotional support you want to provide to, or receive from, others.

Maintaining your own thoughts and feelings separate from others in your relationships.

Emotional Boundaries sound like:
"I'm not in a good headspace to do this right now."
"I'm going to need to pause from this conversation and take a break, I'm at my max emotionally. I'll be back in 5 minutes."
"This isn't the right time for me."

3. Resource Boundaries
These are boundaries around your time and energy.

Resource Boundaries sound like:
"I can come, I‘m only able to stay for an hour before I head home."
"Saturday afternoons are the time I recharge, so I won't be available. Monday may work better for me."
"I'm open to collaborating in the future, I just don't have the space for that right now."

4. Material Boundaries
These involve boundaries around your things, how they're used and how they're treated.

Material Boundaries sound like:
"I don't allow people to drive my car, I'm uncomfortable with that."
"You're welcome to wear my clothes, please bring them back the next day."
"If you'd like to borrow my things, please ask first."
"Yes, you can use my computer tomorrow morning to do your work emails, I will need it back at lunchtime though."

5. Mental Boundaries
Controlling who has access to your thoughts, opinions, and beliefs.

Setting limits on the demands people make on your time and energy.

Asserting your right to think differently from others at school, workplace, and with friend/family/couple relationships.

6. Financial Boundaries
Money management
Separating joint finances from your individual finances in a relationship.

Loans and gifts
Limits on the financial support you provide to others.

Spending habits
Controlling the access others have to your money in a relationship.

7. Spiritual Boundaries
Keeping your spiritual views and practices separate from those imposed by others.

Choosing which spiritual rituals and customs you observe.

Maintaining ownership of your spiritual path.

8. Interpersonal Boundaries
Distinguishing responsibilities within relationships.

Setting limits on the time you spend with others.

Maintaining independence within relationships.

Should I set healthy boundaries?
Setting boundaries helps us know what's expected in the relationship. Many of us don't have or understand boundaries because we were not modelled clear boundaries by parent figures, or our boundaries were consistently violated and ignored.

Boundaries can look different in every relationship
We have unique relationships with our friends, colleagues, family, and romantic partners. When setting boundaries it's normal to feel afraid, guilty, or confused about if you even have a right to set them. These feelings come from codependency. With practice, we can evolve to understand boundaries as a part of our self-worth and self-care.

Healthy boundaries in relationships create mutual respect between individuals
Emotionally healthy people hold boundaries and respect the boundaries of others. They have the emotional maturity to understand we each have our own limits and that those limits are not "mean" or "rude." Remember, boundary setting is a practice that becomes more comfortable over time. If you are new to setting them, you may find that people find the "change" difficult to accept, it may take time.

Boundaries are about us. They are not about other people. We set boundaries to protect ourselves, not to change someone else. When we set a boundary to make someone change, we're not really setting a boundary. We're trying to manipulate the situation under the guise of a boundary.

Do our boundaries sometimes help people change?
Absolutely! When we set healthy boundaries we model appropriate behaviour and we force new interactional patterns to take hold. Sometimes people ignore our boundaries completely or they rebel against them. If you set the boundary in order to get someone to change and they don't, you may be left thinking that the boundary was wrong, or that it wasn't helpful. The boundary needs to work for you and protect you. It allows you to decide what behaviour you want in your own life.

When you set boundaries try to consider:
• Your needs and what's helpful for you.
• The energy you need to protect.
• What you want the relationship to look like.• When you need to rewrite your boundaries. You can start in one place and adjust until you find what works best for you.

10 signs of Unhealthy Boundaries

1. Giving as much of yourself as you can without any consideration of what you get back.

2. Letting others define you e.g. your worth or your character.

3. Going against your personal values to please someone else.

4. Accepting things you don't actually want.

5. Giving others an excessive amount of influence over the things that matter to you e.g. your career, the friends you keep, or the relationship you have.

6. Believing others should be able to anticipate your needs and act in alignment with them (without you needing to voice this yourself).

7. Your feelings and needs are always secondary to others.

8. You trust people blindly without any consideration of whether they're deserving of this.

9. You ignore "red flags" or unhealthy behaviour.

10. You have a high tolerance for toxic behaviour e.g. mental abuse, disrespect.

10 examples of Healthy Boundaries

1. Taking a "time-out" during an argument because you feel it's spiraling out of control.

2. Limiting your liability to regain some power in how you communicate.

3. Not buying into someone else's perception of reality because they gaslight you.

4. Walking away entirely because they've shown no willingness to change their behaviour despite your efforts to put in boundaries.

5. Releasing yourself from the "saver" and "fixer" role, acknowledging they're responsible for their own growth.

6."I will not be the scapegoat for your own frustrations. I deserve better"

7."I would have loved to attend but on this occasion, I won't be.”

8.” I won't accept you shouting and insulting me this way. I'm going to step away.”

9.” If you continue to disrespect me or the things that matter to me this conversation will have to end.”

10. Not needing to justify your behaviours to someone who is unwilling to accept them regardless of any explanation.

Having healthy boundaries is not just about setting them
As we grow and get better at setting boundaries, it's also important to remember how we can inadvertently not respect others' boundaries. Healthy boundary setting also looks like recognising and respecting other people's boundaries as well. 

Let's normalise asking people what their boundaries are and apologising if we cross them. Boundaries are not just about getting what we want; they are about creating healthy, workable relationships that we all can benefit from.

Learn how to set Healthy Boundaries

If you have trouble saying "no", have feelings of anger and resentment, or are overwhelmed, you could benefit from counselling support. Perhaps you're struggling with people who fail to respect the boundaries you have already set, or you have never really set any before. We have experienced Counsellors who can help you on your journey towards setting healthier boundaries. Therapy sessions are available via TelephoneSkypeInstant Messenger and Email. We look forward to hearing from you.