By Lisa Ryan.

Boundaries is a topic that often comes up in therapy, sometimes we may have developed unhealthy boundaries from unhealthy relationships or care-givers violating their boundaries.  Having clear boundaries in all relationships allows us to care for ourselves psychologically, which is not selfish, but an essential aspect of well-being.


What are boundaries?

Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within our relationships and life. A person with healthy boundaries can say no to others when they want to, but are comfortable to opening up themselves to intimacy and close relationships. Boundaries can be physical, emotional, professional, sexual, and materialistic and time based.


What are healthy boundaries?

A person with healthy boundaries is someone who:

  • value their own opinions.
  • don’t compromise values for others.
  • share personal information in an appropriate way (does not over or under share).
  • know personal wants, needs and can communicate them.
  • is accepting when others say “no” to them.


Why do we need boundaries?

Setting boundaries is an important part of establishing one’s identity and is a crucial aspect of mental health and well-being. Setting healthy boundaries can have many benefits, including helping people make decisions based on what is best them, not just the people around them. This autonomy is an important part of self-care.


How to set healthy boundaries?

Boundaries should be based on your values, or the things that are important to you. For example, if you value spending time with family, set firm boundaries about working late.  Your boundaries are yours and yours alone. Many of your boundaries might align with those who are close to you, but others will be unique. When you have identified what your boundaries might be, you can start to implement them. To do this you should assertively and openly communicated to others in a clear way. Sometimes, it is necessary to continue to communicate one’s boundaries to others and to make others aware when the boundary has been crossed. Maintaining boundaries also requires a person to establish consequences that are followed through when those boundaries are violated.

Like any new skill, assertively communicating your boundaries takes practice. I would suggest starting with a small boundary that isn’t threatening to you and then incrementally increasing to more challenging boundaries. 


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