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  • Writer's pictureKate Warren

Having the courage to set boundaries

Welcome back and thank you for joining me for another Stay U Blog. Yes, it's me, Kate, and this blog will be talking about setting up Healthy Boundaries.

I'm sure you have all heard of boundaries but let me clarify them in a mental health context:

By definition, a boundary is “a line that marks the limit of an area; a dividing line.” In your relationships (be it with a partner, a friend, or with family), setting boundaries establishes what you are accepting from that other person and what you are not. Without healthy boundaries, we allow others to override our values, desires, and feelings.

Let me give you an example...

A friend of mine (let's call her Abby) had been questioning her relationship with her partner (and let's call them Adam). Adam had been very demanding of Abby - with her time and affection - and questioned her views and values. When it came to my Abby's needs, however, Adam was not always available or receptive. This made Abby frustrated and, at times, very sad. She decided that a "break" was a good idea - some time to think about the relationship, where it was heading, and to get some time away. Essentially, she wanted to establish some boundaries and needed time to do that. Adam agreed to this, but things didn't go as planned. To Abby, a break meant no contact - no calls, no texts (unless there had been an emergency, of course) and no meeting up; but to Adam, it only meant not seeing her, so he continued to text regularly, acting like the relationship had continued as normal. This was not intentional, but he had basically not respected Abby's boundaries.

When setting boundaries, clear communication is key. The more accurately you express your boundaries, the more likely they will be respected. This is easier said than done, though, as setting boundaries is also a social skill. Many of us are not confident or comfortable enough to say how we really feel, as we fear that we will come across as cruel or hurt another person's feelings. What we need to keep in mind is that having boundaries is part of self-care and, as we all know, self-care is important.

Healthy boundaries can be seen as empowering borders that protect you from being used, drained, or manipulated by others.

You can set boundaries around:

Your Time

Your Personal space and Body

Your Sexuality and Affections

Your Morals, Values and Ethics

Your Possessions and Money

You can set these boundaries with:

Your Family 

Your Friends

Your Romantic relationships/partners/lovers

Your Coworkers

And even with Strangers

Think of it this way...

Setting boundaries is prioritising your own wellbeing.

You may have a friend who turns up to your house unexpectedly on a regular basis or asks to go out to lunch without bringing their wallet. This would make you feel used and taken advantage of. Imagine if you set up a boundary with this person - you said, "before you come over to my place, can you please give me a call" or "sure, I'd love to catch up, but we will need to pay for our own meals".

How do you know when a boundary needs to be set?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is causing me unnecessary stress?

  • What situations/people do I dread facing?

  • Who gives me positive energy and who does not?

  • What areas of my life make me exhausted?

  • What makes me feel unsafe?

  • What or who do I always have trouble saying "no" to (when I know I really should)?

More than likely, these are the areas or people you need to set boundaries with. Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts, find your courage, and then express your needs in a kind, clear way. You might say:

“I understand you’re having a hard time and I want to be there for you, but I don’t have the emotional capacity to listen right now.”

“It makes me feel uncomfortable when you [touch or action]. If you can’t respect my space, I’ll have to leave.”

“This is not a topic I’m willing to discuss right now.”

“I don’t find those types of comments funny.”

Finally, and most importantly, remember that everyone is entitled to their own personal space, their own emotions, their own thoughts, and their own beliefs.

Thank you again for reading and visiting my blog. My next topic will be Personal Safety.

Take care, stay strong and remember - a problem shared is a problem halved.


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