As defined by Merriam Webster, a boundary is something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent. It can be applied to objects, distances, relationships, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. Collectively, these can be categorized into physical, mental, and emotional boundaries. For Cloud & Townsend (1992), the boundary is defined as what is me and not me. It is where the possession of “I” ends and someone else begins. Different people have different boundaries because these were developed as a combination of culture, judgment, personal experiences, principles, and accumulated knowledge. For one, our sense of comfort differs from one person to another. We can be used to hugging a childhood friend but not an office acquaintance. Or sharing an intimate gesture with a special someone but not with a good friend.
Dr. Ryan Howes, a clinical psychologist, and author explained that a healthy boundary is knowing what you want and need while meeting those goals and not feeling bad about yourself or others. Setting a healthy personal boundary is very important since it plays a crucial role in our interpersonal relationships, self-care, safety, decision making, self-expression, and the quality of life in general. When we have healthy boundaries, it is easier to identify and feel if our boundaries were crossed by someone else or crossed someone’s boundaries already. Without it, it will be difficult for us to navigate our choices, nurture our self-identity, regulate our emotions and ensure self-growth. People with loose boundaries are predisposed to other people’s suggestions, over-giving to the point of exhaustion, and are always taken advantage of by other people. On the other hand, clinical psychologist Dr. Mark Dombeck pointed out that people with rigid boundaries are isolated, have detached relationships, and are so entangled with duty and honor. When were the times you felt your boundaries were crossed? What did you do to address your concern? Here are some practical ways to set your boundaries.
Saying No. Do not be afraid to say “no” (or “yes”) every time you want to. You are free to say “no” if you are uncomfortable with certain requests or if it is against your own beliefs or moral values. Conforming to the majority, just because your opinion is different lessens your individuality, creativity, and critical thinking. By confirming, you are also giving other people the capability to control your life.
Adding your boss on Facebook. In today’s digital world, social media sites are now your personal, public, and working space altogether. Because of this, people who want to keep their personal lives private will have difficulty doing so. Some will constantly release their emotional stress through social media sites, so sending or accepting their boss’s friend request might be a bad idea after all. By doing so, you are not limiting your connection but guarding your intellectual and emotional space against intrusion. After all, your work life should be separated from your work life.
Oversharing. Many times, we share our own stories with other people. However, there is danger in how much information we can reveal to other people. Oversharing can be problematic, especially for people who have loose boundaries. They are more likely inclined to share too much personal or confidential information as well as humiliating or embarrassing stories.
Burning bridges. We are expected to stay in touch with our relatives, friends or sometimes past lovers. Usually, it is good advice. But for people who are in toxic relationships, not too much. Staying connected with an overly dependent friend, a past lover who manipulated you, or a relative who feeds on drama will burden you emotionally and physically. Always remember that you are not responsible for the happiness of others as they are also not responsible for your own.
Unsolicited advice. Well-meaning people help others by giving them advice. However, repeated, unwanted, and insistent advice is also a form of intrusion. If they are adults, they are responsible for making decisions for their good. And if you must give some advice, ask their permission first.
Some people have developed their boundaries earlier than others, while some did not. Nevertheless, setting boundaries can be learned. With self-awareness and conscious repetitions, you will set a healthy boundary for yourself and other people.
Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (1992). "Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life.” Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
Soghomonian, I. (2019, September 23). Boundaries – Why are they important? Part 1. The Resilience Centre. https://www.theresiliencecentre.com.au/boundaries-why-are-they-important/
Dombeck, M. (2021). Boundaries and Dysfunctional Family Systems. Center Site LLC. https://www.pbmhmr.com/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=10179
Tartakovsky, M. (2014, March 30). Signs Your Boundaries Are Too Loose or Too Rigid. PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/blog/signs-your-boundaries-are-too-loose-or-too-rigid#2
Boundary Definition. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/boundary
What Are Personal Boundaries? How Do I Get Some? (2016, May 17). PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-are-personal-boundaries-how-do-i-get-some#4
Liles, J. (2019, May 27). On Boundaries: Defining Boundaries. Out of My Mind. https://www.oomm.live/on-boundaries-defining-boundaries/
What Are Boundaries? (n.d.). Metta Psychology Group. https://www.mettapsych.com/news/2017/7/31/what-are-boundaries