The idea of “setting boundaries” is often discussed in therapy, as it is a helpful and practical tool for improving your own mental health and the quality of your relationships. A personal boundary is a superficial line that distinguishes yourself and your personal comforts/discomforts, tolerances/intolerances, from another person or entity. Setting boundaries can be empowering and healing, and it can give you space away from toxic behaviors and things that are not serving you. So, in what areas can we create boundaries, and how do we do it? This blog post will discuss The Holistic Psychologist’s exploration of five different areas in which we can set boundaries: emotional, material, time/energy, mental, and physical boundaries.
Setting emotional boundaries with your loved ones can be very difficult. You’ll notice that once you try to set any kind of boundary with a person, they typically react in a negative way, especially if they don’t like that boundary or have difficulty respecting it. Emotional boundaries are helpful to set in place when you recognize that others’ emotions start to impact your own healing or energy. Are you in a relationship with someone (parent, friend, romantic partner) who assumes your emotions, dismisses them, or tries to justify them for you? If the answer is yes (to any of those), it may be beneficial for you to set an emotional boundary with this person. You do this by starting a conversation and being direct and clear with your feelings and what you need the person to be more aware of. Then, you have to stay consistent with the boundary by following through with action. Remove yourself from the situation if the person does not respect your boundary. Say “No” and then step away. With emotional boundaries, it’s important to remember that we all have rights to the way we feel.
Material boundaries typically involve you creating a boundary around your personal, material items. This can be anything from food, to clothing, to your home. For example, do you have a friend (or roommate, partner) that comes into your space and assumes that they can eat your food without asking, or they leave a complete mess in your home? This is where you can set a material boundary. This type of boundary can also be applied towards borrowing items – if you have a loved one who borrows clothes, electronics, or other items from you and returns them in poor condition (or not at all), set a clear boundary on how you want your items to be treated and returned. If this person cannot follow the boundary, again, be clear and take action to remove yourself from that type of scenario in the future.
Do you have a friend or partner that drains your energy when you’re around them? Do you have a loved one that is constantly expecting your time to revolve around theirs and their schedule? It’s important to give yourself your own time and energy, and if you feel that someone is taking that away from you, this is where you can set a boundary. If you need more personal space within your relationship, voice this to your partner and be explicit about what this means and looks like for you. Follow through with action and be firm.
Check in with yourself and identify what your personal mental health needs are and what boundaries would accompany them. If someone is draining your mental energy or mentally abusing you (berating you, constantly criticizing you, making you feel shame or guilt through verbal expression), a boundary within this relationship will be necessary. Avoid situations where this person will have an opportunity to deflate your mental energy or gaslight you. Make self-care a priority.
Physical boundaries are so important – in all types of relationships! Not everyone is open to touch, so it is important to be aware of your own and other’s tolerances for physical contact. This can also be true for physical (sexual and non-sexual) touch in romantic relationships. Be clear in expressing to your partner and loved ones what you can and cannot tolerate physically. This is also important to practice in the workplace.
If you are having difficulty setting boundaries within your relationships, therapy can be a great resource for working through this type of issue. Contact Symmetry Counseling to get connected with one of our talented clinicians today!
The Holistic Psychologist’s post on boundaries was referenced for this post.