Perimeter: Why Are Boundaries Important and How Do We Set Them?

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Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.

Brene Brown

Boundaries are important to set for all of us, but especially for people with mental health issues. We need to be able to protect ourselves from the things and the people who can exacerbate our issues. There are external boundaries, the way that we allow other people to treat us, and internal boundaries, how we manage our own time, thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Boundaries are meant to protect your well-being and should be based on your values and what you feel comfortable with.

Boundaries

I’m going to be honest with you, I have never been very good at setting boundaries. When I was young, I was told that I wasn’t allowed to set external boundaries and I didn’t really know how to set them internally. I know now that emotional dysregulation is a part of my disorders, so it was often hard for me to control the way I reacted to people who were going too far. As a child, you have less agency than the adults around you, so they can pretty much do what they want.

For me, that translated into unhealthy relationships when I became an adult. Significant others who treated me badly and I never put my foot down and stood up for myself. Friends and family took advantage of my naivety and kindness. People have often been aware of the fact that I have a hard time saying no and used it to their advantage to get whatever they wanted out of me.

People will test the boundaries that we create and we must not falter. When you create boundaries, you make yourself the priority. Without them, you end up doing things that you don’t want to do. This can be a drain on your emotions, energy, and time. Enforcing boundaries can be empowering and can boost your self-esteem, in turn making it easier to stand your ground. When you don’t have them, or they are consistently breached by the people in your life, you may become resentful; it can cause anxiety, anger, depression, and stress.

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boundaries

We all have certain rights as human beings and boundaries protect those rights. These rights can include:

  • Feeling safe
  • Having your privacy and your boundaries respected
  • Being heard and listened to
  • Feeling validated
  • Being appreciated and valued
  • Having your needs met
  • Being treated respectfully
  • When you say no, it means no

There are different kinds of boundaries and they are all important in their own ways:

  • Physical – addresses the space around you
  • Emotional – your internal, emotional experience
  • Mental – your personal thought process
  • Time and energy – your time and energy are essential
  • Material – your personal possessions and how they are treated

Boundaries can improve your relationships and your view of yourself. They can be flexible and you can add or remove them at any time, contingent upon what is right for you. They allow us to conserve our emotional energy as well as giving us space to grow and be vulnerable. We all deserve good barriers for these reasons. They can be uncomfortable to set and even more uncomfortable to enforce, but it is worth it in the end.

What do boundaries look like?

Boundaries can look like a lot of things. It is important to understand that there are different set of boundaries for each aspect of your life: for your partner, your friendships, your work relationships, your kids…even the relationships that you form with people online. Some examples of boundaries are:

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  • Saying, “No.”
  • Refusing to take blame for others actions or emotions.
  • Refusing to allow disrespect.
  • Being the one to dictate your own feelings; you are the only one in charge of those.
  • Asking for space; figurative or literal.
  • Communicating when you feel uncomfortable.
  • Not allowing someone to go through your personal belongings.
  • Asking that someone not comment on your weight.
  • Not allowing someone access to your passwords.
  • Keeping a separate checking account from your partner.

These are just a few examples. There are many types (and sub-types) of boundaries. Familiarize yourself with them and, in your better understanding of them, it might help you to become inspired enough to come up with some out-of-the-box solutions.

How Do You Set Them?

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Look, I’m no expert and the advice I’m about to give you is advice that I also need to take. Honestly, I have been letting people run roughshod over me for most of my life. So I’ll be taking my own advice and using the tips in my own life.

Ways to set and enforce boundaries:

  • Look at your core values. This is where you are going to find your most solid walls. You don’t want to compromise on these and you want to set boundaries for anyone who might want you to.
  • Follow your instincts. You know your sense of right from wrong, what you are comfortable with and what you aren’t. When your gut has something to say, you should listen.
  • Be assertive. This is hard for me, but it is imperative. You have to learn to stand your ground.
  • Be consistent. People will consistently try to overrun your lines in the sand, so make sure that you consistently enforce them.
  • Learn to say no.
  • Communicate your perimeter clearly; make sure that you are vocal about what is okay, what is not okay, and when someone is close to violating a boundary.
  • Start small. Don’t try to go all in; it can feel like too much pressure. I assure you that every time you enforce a boundary, you will feel more confident and more comfortable with them.
  • Give yourself permission to focus on yourself and make yourself a priority. You matter. How you feel matters. It’s important for you to remember that and to make yourself number 1. Remember that when you shine, everyone shines.
  • Be self-aware. Self-awareness is important in figuring out where you need to set boundaries. Knowing when you’re uncomfortable or when you’ve been wronged or hurt is important. Also, knowing what needs to be done to improve your situation.
  • Safe guard your spaces. When possible, only allow people in your spaces when you feel comfortable with them. Keep some spaces just for you; safe and welcoming and not intruded upon.
  • Be mindful of other’s boundaries. You can’t expect them to abide by your own if you can’t abide by their. We get the respect that we give and boundaries are all about respect.
  • Pay close attention to your feelings. They will guide you in deciding where, when, and why boundaries need to be set.
  • Make self care a priority. This means telling people no and enforcing your boundaries whenever possible. You can tell people that you are not available even when you aren’t busy. Self care and “me-time” is important.

Boundaries can improve relationships, ensuring that they stay healthy. Without boundaries, you often see a power struggle start to occur. One person in the relationship ends up with more power and that is never a healthy situation. Relationships should be a balance; no one should have power over the other. They should be a support; a co-equal branch of government. Solid boundaries make this possible.

Also keep in mind that they can be flexible, conditional, and on a time limit. You might say, I’m not going to let the person I’m dating come to my house until we’ve been seeing each other for 6 months. Another example, you might have a friend that you love being around, but you hate being around them when they drink. You would then draw a line and tell them that you can’t hang out when they’re drinking. You make the rules on these; they are your boundaries.

Boundaries also allow us to conserve emotional energy. Don’t things that we don’t want to or that don’t align with our values is exhausting. It will drain your energy and your spirit. Letting people treat you badly, not standing up for yourself, and allowing people to engage in hurtful behavior can act like a vampire, draining the life from you. With a good perimeter, you save yourself that emotional expenditure.

Lastly, boundaries give us the space and room to grow as human beings. Growth seems compulsory to finding meaning and contentment in this life. We all deserve to grow into ourselves. Setting good boundaries will allow for these transformations.

We deserve at least that much. So, go forth! Set boundaries! Feel no guilt! Be brave, my friends! We have got this!!!

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Love and light. Keep fighting the good fight! 💜💜

About The Author

Amber Corinne

Writing about living with ADHD and mental illness and my journey down a thriving path forward. Breaking stigmas and creating community, one post at a time.

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5 Comments

  1. Boundaries are so important for our own peace of mind and mental health. It can be so hard to implement them so all that you’ve shared here is so useful — thank you! I’ve been working on using mine more effectively and it has made positive progress so far. I recommend setting some to everyone!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Molly! Good luck on your journey with setting boundaries. It can be so hard, but well worth it!

  2. Setting up boundaries for ourselves is always the best thing we do to keep our mental health stable. Many a times our surroundings and people whom we interact with, has lot of impact on our lives and ultimately they impact our mental health, so it’s always better to set the boundaries of communication and everything else which could bother the mental stability! It’s a great post, Amber. Thanks for sharing this with us!

    1. Thanks, Biren! Boundaries are so important, but they are so hard for some of us to enforce. A lot of us were raised in environments where boundaries weren’t allowed and this taught us that we couldn’t enforce them anywhere. It’s hard to undo the programming we go through as children sometimes, but it’s well worth it in this case!

      1. I totally understand such environment! It’s not the same struggle for everyone, it varies individually and especially it becomes harder when you’ve stringent surroundings!

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