Setting Healthy Boundaries

May 19, 2020
Setting Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries are essential to having healthy relationships and a balanced life. As we talk about healthy boundaries, most people can agree that it is something that is not usually taught and can bring up many issues for people throughout their life. You may find yourself saying yes when you want to say no, helping others more than you can, not being able to set limits around your work life or with a partner or being too rigid and lacking flexibility around things. Everyone's boundaries are different, so it is important to explore and be clear about the values that are important to you and that you want to live by. For example, someone who really values spending time with their family will very likely have to set firm boundaries at work. Setting boundaries can be tough and requires great amounts of practice but it can be achieved and the results can be wonderful!

As we refer to boundaries there three types that we talk about: rigid boundaries, porous boundaries, and healthy boundaries.

Rigid boundaries are as they sound: firm, inflexible, and difficult to change. Someone who has rigid boundaries tend to keep people at a distance and might not consider other options even if they may want to or should. People who have rigid boundaries avoid intimacy and close relationships, are unlikely to ask for help, have few close relationships, are very protective of personal information, may seem detached even with romantic partners, and keeps others at a distance to avoid the possibility of rejection. This boundary type typically develops as a result of past negative experiences, sometimes due to trauma or past neglect.

On the opposite side of that coin are people with porous boundaries. Someone who has this type of boundaries tend to overshare personal information, has difficulty saying 'no' to the requests of others, is over involved with other's problems, is dependent on the opinions of others, may be accepting of abuse or disrespect, and fear rejection if they do not comply with others.

Healthy boundaries lie somewhere in the middle. Someone who has healthy boundaries values their own opinions, doesn't compromise values for others, shares personal information in an appropriate way (without over or under-sharing), knows and clearly communicates personal wants and needs, and is accepting when others say 'no' to them.

There are some things to consider when thinking about setting boundaries around others. First, think about and know your limits, what are you okay with and what are you not okay with, as well as what are you willing to be flexible on and consider other options. Know your values and what’s important to you and abide by them. Be respectful to others regardless of their response. Don’t let others put you down or make you feel guilty about the decision to set boundaries as it can be normal for people to resist change. Remember that other people might give you push back about boundaries at the beginning. It’s important to continue being assertive without getting upset and continuing to trust yourself that you are making the right decision!

Andrea Baskin, MS, LMHC