What the hell are boundaries? Blog by Gwynaedd Howdyshell

“‘No’ is a complete sentence” – Anne Lamont.

Boundaries are all the rage these days.  You might even call them “trending.” But setting effective boundaries that still honor your relationships is TOUGH.  Boundaries aren’t cute or easy and they can call on us to dig into our deepest pain and break old people pleasing patterns that once kept us safe.  

When we grow up with rigid boundaries, or the lack of boundaries, we may become boundariless, or have rigid boundaries without any room for flexibility resultling in isolation. 

Rigid boundaries can look like hyper-independence – this one kicked me right in my pride as I have always struggled to ask for help. Part of my own boundary work is asking for help before it becomes an emergency and burdens the person I am asking for help. 

Open, porous boundaries (lack of boundaries)

This is the people-pleasing doormats we have all found ourselves to be at some point in relationships. It’s hard for us to say no in this state, and we become accepting of abuse and develop a fear of rejection if we say “no” to something. We become overinvested in others’ problems and business and take on their issues. We develop codependency, rely on others for validation, and become dependent on their opinions. This one SUCKS and burns your energy up so quickly to the point where you may be forced to rigid boundaries – and this can become a cycle until we can create and honor healthy boundaries. 

Boundaries are created to protect yourself and your priorities, values and beliefs. Lack of boundaries in any setting can result in resentment. They represent the limits that we have available to our comfort level. Acquiring healthy boundaries allows space for accountability, respect and open communication with healthy conflict. 

The first key to setting boundaries is “self-awareness”. It would be impossible to set boundaries if you weren’t aware of your morals values and beliefs. 

Another key component is setting boundaries with ourselves – this is not always easy, but enforcing ourselves with the responsibility to make our 9PM bedtime, regardless of how much we have left to do, actually empowers the shit out of us.

Below are some examples of different kinds of boundaries.  As you read through them, I invite you to notice where are you under-boundaried, or potentially over-boundaried in these different areas.  Where do you feel these in your body? What resources might you need in order to feel like you could set the boundaries that you need to? (like a grounding practice, deep breathing, moving your body, etc) 

Physical boundaries – bedtimes, hugging, respecting consent for physical touch, prioritizing physical health (working out).

Emotional boundaries – leaving a conversation that invalidates you, sharing only what you’re comfortable sharing, staying out of other’s business and problems, asking for space when you need it.

Time boundaries – being on time to things, allowing only a certain amount of time to be dedicated towards a task, honoring appointments from start to finish, and allowing others to leave when they need to. 

Sexual boundaries – only doing what you’re comfortable with, only doing what the other is comfortable with, having conversations around willingness and consent 

Intellectual boundaries – respecting others’ opinions and deciding whether or not to engage in conversations around beliefs, being aware of appropriate discussions, (ie. Not discussing politics with colleagues or family members).

Material boundaries – not touching others’ material belongings, setting limits on what and how much we share (my siblings had very strict boundaries with Halloween candy), replacing what you break or borrow, returning what you borrow, not sharing something you treasure, 

Energetic boundaries – not engaging in activities that drain you negatively, not engaging with people who don’t respect your boundaries

Financial boundaries – not lending money to others, not paying for others without agreement and trust for return, budgeting and sticking to it, paying bills on time, not spending more than you have.

Spiritual boundaries – respecting your spirituality and others. Not imposing your beliefs upon others, and choosing to engage how you want in others’ spiritual preference.

Digital boundaries – unplugging regularly, not watching two screens at a time, not relying on screens for social contact.

Work boundaries – not working more than you’ve agreed to without warning, keeping co-workers’ relationships professional, not engaging in work outside of work hours (answering calls and emails at home), asking for a raise when necessary

Social boundaries – engaging with specific friends, keeping friends and intimate relationships separate, setting time aside for socializing, keeping secrets when asked, sharing vulnerable information with permission, and asking for support when needed.

Setting boundaries can be very challenging.  And.. we need to realize that setting boundaries is actually the kindest thing. If we do not set healthy boundaries in our relationships, we inevitably land in deep resentment.  Setting healthy and effective boundaries that still maintain our connections with people (ie.. telling someone they’re being an asshole is not effective boundary setting)- This allows us to truly stay in a place of compassion with people in our lives.  Boundaries actually free us up. They protect our energy and value reciprocity in relationships. 

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