A boundary is where you end, and another person begins. It's a limit that you set to tell others what you will and will not do, accept or tolerate from them.
If you are like most of my clients, you have a hard time setting boundaries or limits in some or all areas of your life.
This isn't your fault. Please don't feel bad about yourself. It's because most women were taught as children that we have no right to boundaries.
We are told to smile when we aren't happy, please others at our own expense, put others' needs before our own, express only pleasant feelings, listen without talking, and give without receiving. Now, likely no one told you this directly ( but they may have!), but the messages we get from our families and society about what a good woman should be still conveying this to us. Think about what you were taught about these things in your family.
It cannot be easy to help my women clients in therapy with boundaries because they've been taught not to have good boundaries. It's important to acknowledge that our culture does not honor women's boundaries.
I know how hard it is to deprogram yourself from these messages. I have to work on it myself continuously.
However, if you want to have healthy, authentic relationships, it's important to have good boundaries. This is a cornerstone of therapy.
Physical boundaries: Physical boundaries include boundaries that have to do with space, time, and privacy. These include how someone touches you, whether they interrupt you, respect your privacy, or if they are in your personal space. You have a right to decide when someone touches you, interrupts you, takes up your time and invades your space.
Emotional boundaries have to do with how you feel emotionally and how others feel. You have a right to protect your feelings and not take responsibility for others' feelings.
Energetic boundaries have to do with the state of energy others bring to you or take from you. If you are overwhelmed by others' energy or activities that they engage in, you have a right to leave the space or conversation or ask the person to stop engaging in the activities. Paying attention to your energy level is key for this, and not disregarding your feelings.
Mental boundaries pertain to your thoughts, values, and opinions. What you think matters as much as anyone elses thoughts. When someone says things that are offensive to you, you have a right to your reactions; you have a right to end or leave conversations, situations, OR relationships.
Material boundaries pertain to money and property that belongs to you. You have a right to your money and property, and to decide who to give it to and share it with. Paying attention to how people may be violating these is key to have a healthy life.
Boundaries are natural, but our conscious mind may have learned to suppress our boundaries because we have been conditioned that way.
Somewhere deep down, you still know what your natural boundaries are. There are emotional and physical signals, but we have lost touch with them. Part of learning your boundaries is learning the signals!
You can come to know these signals by learning your emotional and physical cues when your boundaries have been crossed.
You can learn how to listen to your boundaries by finding the feeling and body clues.
Feeling angry, resentful, shut down, or helpless is less likely a sign that something is wrong with you than a sign that you've unconsciously allowed a boundary violation. Other emotions include feeling anxious, overwhelmed, guilty or stressed. These are good warning signs that something is off. CHECK YOUR BOUNDARIES. Luckily, as adults we have the power to set boundaries and care for ourselves.
Any work you can do to become more in tune with signals that are happening in your body will help ( yoga, mediation etc). Your body is filled with clues when your boundaries are being violated. One simple exercise to help you get in touch with your body is to close your eyes, and say the word "No," and say the word " Yes," ask yourself:
Practice getting in touch with the sensations in your body around these words.
This can be quite a powerful experience. Perhaps you feel expansive and joyful when you say "Yes". You might feel tense and anxious when saying "No. You may feel or visualize yourself putting your hand forward as if to push someone away when saying "No" or opening your arms wide when saying yes.
When you find yourself in situations saying "Yes" or saying "No", try and remember this exercise and see whether your physical experiences match what you are saying. These are the body clues.
Guilt is highly unreliable. Guilt is programmed into us for whatever society, or the adults around us decided we should feel guilty for. It provides therapists with a steady stream of clients. Often when we should be setting a boundary, guilt will instead come up and STOP the healthy boundary setting. That is because we were taught to feel guilty for caring for ourselves. You cannot care for others if you are not healthy and do not have healthy boundaries. Feeling guilty can be a RED FLAG that it may be time to set a boundary.
Setting Boundaries Will Set You Free: The Ultimate Guide to Telling the Truth, Creating Connection, and Finding Freedom Nancy Levin
Adam Wilder. The Embodiment Conference (2020, October). Embodied Boundaries
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Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.