“Setting limits is a way of defining who you are and what you’re all about, what you will do and what you won’t; what’s acceptable to you and what’s not”. —Laura Stack—

Many people have seen and understand a no trespassing sign posted on private property. And if you were to cross the line, then there will be consequences and prosecution. We are able to see a clear picture that this is a boundary that we are not to cross. However, personal boundaries are more difficult and not as easy to define. Personal boundaries are defined by the amount space you allow between yourself and others. They also help to decide what types of communication, behavior, and interaction you accept and give to others. And these type of boundaries help to define whether you have healthy or unhealthy relationships.

There are four different types of boundaries: emotional, physical, spirituality, and intellectual. However, I will only focus on emotional boundaries as the purpose of this article.

A healthy life requires a well balanced mix of defense and openness. And if we are out of balance, we often find ourselves in uncomfortable and awkward situations—either keeping people too far away or allowing others to get too close. It is essential for us to be overcome these obstacles and connect with others in emotionally rewarding relationships. And it is even more important to take a close look at our beliefs and habits about boundaries.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Boundaries

A lack of boundaries are like leaving the front door to your home wide open, including welcome and un-welcome guests can walk in without hesitation. On the other hand, rigid boundaries leads to loneliness and isolation. You can’t get out and no one can penetrate your walls. This leads to problems in intimacy in significant relationships. Unhealthy boundaries cause us deep emotional pain that can lead to dependency, depression, anxiety and physical illness.

Those whose boundaries are too rigid literally shut out everyone from their lives. They appear aloof and distant, and do not talk about feelings or show emotions. They exhibit extreme self-sufficiency, and do not ask for help. They do not allow anyone to get physically or emotionally close to them.

Those whose boundaries are too loose may be sexually promiscuous, confuse sex and love, be driven to be in a sexual relationship, and get too close to others too fast—telling someone new their whole life story (TMI=To Much Information). When a person has loose boundaries, they may give too much; take too much; and need constant reassurance. Their lives may be chaotic and full of drama.

Those with healthy boundaries are firm but flexible. They give support and accept it. They respect their feelings, needs, and opinions. They also take responsibility for their own happiness and allow others to be responsible for their happiness. Those with healthy boundaries are comfortable with themselves, and make others comfortable around them.

Emotions are an internal communication that help us to understand ourselves. And becoming aware, is a part of being emotional honesty with ourselves. We need to start seeing clearly what our patterns are, and start taking responsibility for our part in them in order to change our experiences. Acknowledge your feelings toward certain people and/or situations so that you can begin communicating them with others. It will also give you the ability to make logical decisions in your relationships and situation.

The purpose of having healthy emotional boundaries is to protect and take care of ourselves. When problems are present, good emotional boundaries allow us to define the problems and to communicate with our partner in finding solutions. We need to be able to tell other people when they are acting in ways that are not acceptable to us. It is important to state our feelings to others. By stating the feeling out loud, we are affirming that we have a right to feelings. And we are also taking responsibility for ourselves and our reality. Rather the other person can hear us and understand is not as important as hearing ourselves and understanding that we have a right to our feelings. It is important to own our own voice, as well as, to own our right to speak up for ourselves.

Use the “When you…I feel…I want you” statements.

For example: “When your voice gets louder and you curse at me, I feel scared and sad. It feels as if you do not care and value me, nor our relationship (friendship). I want you to speak to me in a calm tone.” You may also tell the person the consequences if their behaviors continue and/or your needs/expectations are not being met

Setting a boundary is not making a threat; it is communicating clearly your feelings and expectations. Healthy relationships involve communicating directly and honestly. Learning how to set boundaries is a necessary step in learning to be a friend to ourselves. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves and to protect ourselves when it is necessary. It is impossible to learn to be loving to ourselves without healthy boundaries. And in order to have healthy emotional boundaries we must be willing to recognize when we do not feel good about how we are being treated; understand what’s making us feel badly; and then do something about it.

It is vital to learn to respect and honor our selves, so that we can awaken to the need to have boundaries that let other people know that we deserve and demand respect. And once we begin having a more loving relationship with ourselves, everything changes. We can speak our truth and let other people know that we deserve and demand respect.

Self Discovery Exercise: Create three columns. In one column, create a list for your feelings; the other column for triggers; and last column for personal expectations. You may need to think of past relationships and experiences. How did you feel; what were the triggers to these feelings; and what did you need from the situation.
On the back, pick an expectation that is lacking and in need of attention (eg. physical, emotional, physical, spiritual) in your relationships with others and find ways to put it into practice on a daily basis. What small step could you take towards bringing balance into one of these areas.

Author's Bio: 

Veronica J Burgess, has over 7 years working in the mental health/therapy field. Veronica has a Bachelors of Science in Child Development and Family Relations, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. And, a Masters in Social Worker--Direct Practice, University of Pittsburgh. Veronica is state certified in Functional Behavioral Assessment. And is trained in Trauma Focused Therapy. Veronica currently is a therapist working with children and their families. As a gifted tarot reader, she has had the privilege of working with many clients from various countries and walks of life.