Leanna Stockard, MA, LMFT

What do you think of when you think of boundaries? What do they mean to you, and how do you implement them in your life? As a therapist, boundaries are one of the core tools I discuss with my clients. Setting boundaries in your life can have a positive effect on your mental health, stability, and your overall wellbeing. I have seen clients benefit from setting boundaries in their life with partners, family members, co-workers, and more. While I have seen the positive impact with implementing healthy boundaries in my client’s lives, as someone who has needed to set boundaries with folks in my life, I know how hard it is to understand my wants and needs, and to make sure they are being met.

Understanding Boundaries

There are different types of boundaries that you may have with others in your life. You may have loose boundaries, rigid boundaries, or healthy boundaries.  

Loose Boundaries 

In an article in Psych Central, Rachel Eddins shares that loose boundaries often lead to an individual feeling emotionally drained. Individuals who have loose boundaries often put others before themselves. They have a hard time saying no to others, and often times feel negatively about themselves after saying yes. Individuals with loose boundaries often disclose a lot of personal information about them, or communicate inappropriate information to the wrong people. Unfortunately, since those who have loose boundaries are overly focused on others, they rarely understand their own wants and needs, which may lead to these individuals feeling disconnected from themselves.  

Rigid Boundaries 

While loose boundaries lead to feeling emotionally drained, rigid boundaries often lead to feelings of loneliness. In an attempt to protect us from feeling vulnerable, Eddins discusses how rigid boundaries are often too restrictive. Due to the fear of rejection that may come with opening up to other people, individuals with rigid boundaries do not open up to others, and it prevents them from being able to engage in intimate relationships. Those with rigid boundaries may also be fearful of vulnerability with themselves, and like individuals with loose boundaries, they may not know their own wants and needs. 

Healthy Boundaries 

Having healthy boundaries with others is taking care of you. Healthy boundaries lay within the gray area between loose and rigid boundaries.  An individual with healthy boundaries knows their wants and needs, knows when they are feeling emotionally drained, knows when to say no, and knows when to share personal stories with others. 

Implementing Healthy Boundaries

You may be looking at these different types of boundaries and recognizing you may fall within loose or rigid boundaries with certain people in your life. That’s ok! The first step in implementing healthy boundaries is recognizing that your boundaries are not healthy. The next step is engaging in self-care and looking inward to determine your wants and needs. Our wants and need will help us understand what are healthy boundaries to us.

If you have not set healthy boundaries in your life before, it may seem challenging to think of starting. I recommend starting with smaller boundaries with people you can trust. This may look like not answering a phone call right away, or telling someone one emotion that you had during your day. Working up from small boundaries can help build confidence, as well as challenge feelings of guilt from fulfilling your wants and needs. 

If you struggle to understand your boundaries or feel challenged with implementing healthy boundaries in your life, it may be helpful to connect with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling today to get in contact with one of our talented clinicians!