Boundaries define who you are. They define what is you and not you. They help others know what is right for you and what is not. One of the best examples of a boundary is your skin. It shows where your body begins and where it ends. Different groups, like religious groups, have boundaries of who they are and what they are about. Think of Catholicism. It's very clear what it means to be a Catholic. What to believe, what not to believe, the history, and how to remain in good standing with the Church. Geographical lines show the boundaries of countries, states, and counties. Within those different geographical lines, laws change, culture, and societal norms change. Even from State to State and town to town. Boundaries are everywhere if you start to look for them.
Personal boundaries show what is right for you and what is not right for you. They illustrate where you begin and you end. They tell other people what you stand for, and what behavior is okay with you. They are often based on your values. If you don't know your values setting boundaries is going to be difficult. If you're new to setting boundaries knowing your values is the place to start. What are your values? Listing five will help give a reason for who you are and what is right for you. If you value trust and you have a micromanaging boss, it might be the reason you're so aggravated with the boss.
Boundaries also help others know what to expect from you or what behavior is not acceptable for you. To have healthy relationships with anyone (pet, boss, partner, friends, family) boundaries need to be flexible, clear, and consistent. Those three things give others expectations of your behavior and if you accept their behavior. Boundaries help others feel safe with you. Parents who have clear, flexible, and predictable boundaries allows their children to relax and enjoy being a kid. Parents who have no boundaries with their children make their children feel confused, unsure, and unsafe. The child in this case does not know what to expect. Sometimes certain things are ok, sometimes they're not. How can someone relax around in an inconsistent environment? Children who grew up with parents who had very rigid and controlling boundaries were not allowed to be creative with their behavior. That means if something was not working with the child, too bad. The child usually learns their opinion doesn't matter and to not problem solve.
If you are new to boundary setting start small. If you have an animal, you can practice setting boundaries with them. If your dog keeps jumping on the bed and you don't want it to do that anymore, you could start there. How can you stop the dog from doing that? What do you need to learn to do that? Part of this is changing your own behavior.
If you're struggling with a relationship, it might be that boundaries are getting crossed. Tune into yourself and figure out what you need in the relationship and ask for your needs to be met in a polite way. Being mad that someone keeps crossing your boundaries does not help the relationship. If you are upset, process why you are mad and your feelings first. Then you can talk to the person once you've calmed down. Saying something like "this one thing ________ isn't working for me. Could we do something else? I'd personally like to see ________ happen" or "I felt like you were acting distant last night. Was there a reason for that?" is a great conversation starter.
Expressing boundaries is vital for happy and fulfilling relationships of all kinds. Without boundaries your values get stepped on, you don't know how to say no, and you don't know what's right for you. Without boundaries, you are essentially telling yourself that you don't matter. This is why boundaries are so important.
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