It’s important to know when to focus on your own desires and needs, and when to serve the desires and needs of others. Our boundaries help us to determine when to support people and when to back off.
Having healthy boundaries can help you to maintain relationships without being taken advantage of. But just how do you know if your boundaries are healthy? This post helps to explain more as to what healthy boundaries look like and how to achieve these boundaries.
What are some different types of boundaries?
There are many different boundaries that we need to set with people. This includes:
- Physical boundaries: Who is allowed in your home? Who are you happy being touched by?
- Emotional boundaries: Who are you happy to open up your emotions to? Are you being too reserved? Contrastingly, are you dumping too many of your problems onto others?
- Time boundaries: How much time is being spent with other people? How much of this time is mutually enjoyed together?
- Sexual boundaries: Is consent always mutual with sexual partners? Are you vocal about which acts/behaviors you are not comfortable with?
- Financial/material boundaries: How much money are you willing to spend on/lend to others? Who are you happy lending possessions to such as your car?
What are some signs of unhealthy boundaries?
Boundaries can become unhealthy if they are too weak or too rigid. It is important that you identify both of these.
Signs that you have weak boundaries include:
- Struggling to say ‘no’ and agreeing to things you don’t want to/can’t do
- Becoming overwhelmed because you take on too many responsibilities of others
- Not following your heart when making decisions in order to appeal to others
- Sacrificing your own important needs for the lesser needs of others
- Allowing yourself to become manipulated or abused by other people
Signs that you have overly rigid boundaries include:
- Regularly pushing away meaningful people in your life
- Bottling up your emotions and not opening up to people you trust
- Regularly refusing to accept the support and advice of others
- Feeling lonely and isolated due to a wall you’ve created around yourself
- Being overprotective of people you love to the point that you end up losing them
What do healthy boundaries look like?
People with healthy boundaries know when to serve their own desires and needs, and when to serve the desires and needs of others. They are able to put their foot down and say ‘no’ if something goes against their principles. At the same time, they are aware of other people’s needs and when to show generosity to build and maintain relationships. They are able to open up to people they trust while staying guarded around people they don’t trust. Ultimately, they take the time to get to know people and set boundaries depending on the level of trust they have with someone. In relationships, they try to maintain equal power, making sure that their needs and their partner’s needs get equal attention.
What are some ways to keep your boundaries healthy?
There are a few steps that you can take to maintain healthy boundaries. Below are just some of the things you can do.
Know your priorities and principles
Your priorities are the things in life that are most important to you. On top of commitments such as kids, pets, your job and living essentials, you should consider your greatest passions. These should come first in your life and should not be sacrificed for others.
It’s also important to know your principles. Which beliefs do you hold strongly? Which ones are you unwilling to compromise on? There should be some principles that you are unwilling to sacrifice and others that you are willing to be more flexible on.
Learn to respect yourself
Setting healthy boundaries ultimately comes from having a good level of self-esteem and self-respect. Weak boundaries are created by not respecting your own priorities and principles and letting others’ needs come first. By learning to value your own needs, you’re less likely to give into pressure.
Set boundaries with people early
If you’ve already permitted certain behaviors with certain people, it can be difficult to then go back and disallow these behaviors. This is why it’s important to set boundaries early. If you don’t trust someone enough to lend them money or let them come around your house, make this clear from the start. You can relax boundaries at a later date if you they win over your trust.
Recognize other people’s boundaries
On top of recognizing your own boundaries, it’s important to understand other people’s boundaries. Understand that just because you feel comfortable opening up to someone or spending lots of time with someone, they may not want to do the same in return.
When it comes to family, partners or roommates, you should also understand that you may both having conflicting boundaries. For example, if a partner wants to bring a friend around your home who you do not trust, you must make this clear and work out a middle ground (such as forewarning you when they come round).
Know when to offer tough love
Sometimes with people you love, you have to create strict boundaries that may seem harsh, however ultimately they could be healthy for you and your loved one. For instance, if a family member is financially struggling and keeps relying on you to bail them out, you need to know when to let them solve the problem themselves – especially if you’re financially struggling yourself because of it.
Know when to relax boundaries
With rigid boundaries, it’s possible to be too tough on others. People can change and may win over your trust eventually. Do not continue to push these people away.
Listen to your inner voice
Many of us have a reasonable inner voice, but we often choose to ignore it in order to pursue urges. The good inner voice should be the one telling you what is best in the long run rather than what is best right now. Listening to this inner voice should ultimately help you to set the right boundaries.