What is a Boundary? #mentalhealthbasics

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me; much like the outline of a drawing or the skin around our bodies or the wall around a yard. It is there to protect us. It also defines what is not my property, responsibility or problem. For example, we are not responsible for other people.

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We need to keep things that nurture us inside our fences and things that harm us outside. In short, boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out.

Having boundaries isn’t a luxury, like I used to think, but a truth. You have psychological and physical boundaries. That is a truth. By being aware of your boundaries and communicating them to others, you are taking responsibility for yourself and acting with integrity toward yourself. On the other hand, if you aren’t aware of your boundaries or choose to let them be violated you aren’t taking care of yourself and are living in a way in which you risk your mental health and stability.

Examples of how one can set boundaries, include:

  • Using words, for example ‘not
  • Using geographical distance, for example excusing yourself from a conversation you would rather not be a part of
  • Using emotional distance
  • Communicating consequences for certain actions, for example a “no trespassing” sign that communicates consequences of prosecution

In terms of boundaries, our first responsibility is to figure out what they are and then how to enforce them.

One super helpful tip to remember when setting boundaries is that you cannot set limits on other people. Other people are just as much their own problem and responsibility as you are yours. What you can do and should do is limit your own exposure to people who are behaving poorly.

One things is for sure (and this is something I never knew!) you are not doing anyone a favor if you choose to just ignore your boundaries. It might feel like you are just being an agreeable/ nice/ good person, but in reality you are not taking care of what is your responsibility and the inevitable consequence of that will be emotions such as anger, shame and guilt, decreased self-esteem and all in all just a more difficult ‘out of control’ life.

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. This is my interpretation of the various sources listed below I consulted in an attempt to self-help and teach myself what I need to know about mental health in order to be mentally healthy.

Source: “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend