In the era of self-care and self-love, the word “boundary” seems to be one that is thrown out a lot but honestly, thank God for it because I’m not quite sure how I survived before acknowledging them.
Growing up I used to wear my sister’s clothes without asking her. I would wait until she left the house and hurriedly run to the closet grab a cute two-piece and wear it out. Even when she confronted me countless times about asking her before I wore her clothes, I didn’t understand the need to respect her wishes. I had no idea what a boundary was and I didn’t respect the boundaries she tried so hard to set for herself. As I grew I began to realize I didn’t respect most people’s boundaries or belongings because growing up no one taught me to and I hadn’t set boundaries for myself. Furthermore,
because I didn’t have boundaries I expected others not to have them with me and when they did I was hurt.
But let’s take it a step backward. What is a boundary? And why do we need them? Better yet, why do we feel the need to not have them? Often times when we have the idea about setting boundaries, we view boundaries as “putting ourselves before others” and we feel enormous guilt about putting ourselves first because we feel as though we are being selfish, however, setting boundaries has nothing to do with being selfish but everything to do with becoming a healthier person.
At first, boundaries may seem difficult to communicate however, having them is necessary for your life, relationships (professionally, socially and personally) and health to thrive.
So what is a “Boundary”?
Some might say a “line that shouldn’t be crossed”. Others might say “ a physical barrier that keeps people out”. However, a boundary as defined by Webster’s dictionary is “something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent.”
My personal favorite definition of a boundary is “ guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.”
With that being said, it is important to note that good boundaries should come from a deep understanding of one’s self. In essence, boundaries should reflect your likes, dislikes, what’s acceptable to you and what isn’t. Boundaries should never come from a place of resentment or hurt or malice.
Here you will find the different situations you might be in and how to have boundaries within them.
1. Within the last five years, the average workweek has increased from 40 to 50 hours a week. This means per recorded hour people are working more. I find this to be a result of a job culture of no boundaries.
Professionally, you should always set boundaries. Creating an atmosphere of little to no boundaries might give others the impression that your time is not valuable. Lots of time young people often allow themselves to work overtime in fear they may upset their boss if they don’t or in hopes that their boss will notice all the extra time they’ve been putting in. However, this creates the standard that you will do whatever even if it’s inconvenient for you. Furthermore, this mindset of all work and no play creates a culture for no self-care and little boundaries even though studies have shown there is no project that is worth your weekend time and that working long hours leads to a decline in quality, productivity, and morale. Yikes.
Having boundaries at your job typically looks like stating your limits from day one. Communicating with your boss that you may be unable to answer emails outside of work. Or you may not even be able to stay over time due to a prior family engagement. These professional limits are ones people often times share them regret not having when they were younger.
2. Socially, communicating your boundaries with your significant other and/or friends will save you a lot of headaches in the future.
I once had a friend who liked to refer to her female friends as “bitch” however I, who grew up in a household that rarely called anyone out of their name found her words made me very uncomfortable. For years I ignored my need to set that boundary until one day I snapped and although I felt upset by her words, my behavior was deemed as uncalled for because I had never vocalized my boundary. This is a common occurrence of individuals who have boundaries but have yet to communicate these boundaries with their friends.
Set boundaries with your friends. Do not be afraid. More times than not your circle will support and respect your boundaries. And anyone that doesn’t respect your boundaries probably shouldn’t be in your life anyway.
3. Your familiarity with your family often makes it difficult to set personal boundaries with them. When I started my journey to setting boundaries with my family I immediately had to start with myself. As mentioned earlier, I had no clue of what a boundary was so in order for me to approach my family I had to go to the drawing board and do a few things.
1). I had to identify times in my early years and seek to understand which behaviors may have contributed to an unhealthy pattern in relations to my family and find out how to get rid of these behaviors 2). Determine which things I stood my ground on and which things I didn’t.
Setting boundaries with our families is often the hardest part. This is often the hardest because we are often taught there are no secrets amongst family but a secret is not a boundary. A boundary is a boundary.
Setting boundaries with your family often times may take having difficult conversations and your boundaries might differ from the next person depending on your personality and your relationship with your family, however, having phrases like “I can no longer do this because I have __ to take care of” or “Moving forward please ask me before you do this?” or even letting yourself be unavailable during certain times proves to be handy.
If you are looking to set boundaries with your family understand it might take some time. Also, understand your family may not take you seriously first but don’t give up. Boundaries can be set and adhered to.
Typically setting boundaries looks like saying no to things that make you uncomfortable, stretches you thin financially, mentally and emotionally. Communicating things that you don’t like or that you don’t deem beneficial to your well being.
You will also often find boundaries differ from person to person so understanding your own boundaries might make you more alert to other people’s boundaries.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Boundaries are important because having them sets you up for a will create a healthier life for you.