What is a boundary?
Boundaries are limits. They are meant to keep you and others emotionally, physically, sexually, and mentally safe. First, you’ll want to figure out what your boundaries are and then tell people what your boundaries are. Don’t assume that they know what they are or that they can read your mind.
What is the difference between rigid, weak, and healthy boundaries?
Rigid boundaries are boundaries that keep people away. People who have rigid boundaries don’t let people get close to them. They are people who seem to have a wall up around them. You may know them for years, but don’t feel like you really know them at all or only know limited information.
Weak boundaries are boundaries that allow everybody in. People who have weak boundaries will tell you their life story the first time you meet them. They will give you their last dollar even if they need that dollar to eat. They will allow people to run right over their boundaries and they even cross their own boundaries.
Healthy boundaries are boundaries that allow some people in and keep others at arm’s length. Over time you will get to know them and will build trust. They will give what they can only after they have made sure that their needs are taken care of.
How do you know if your boundary has been crossed?
One way to know if your boundary has been crossed is by noticing your body’s reaction. If you have a strong physical or emotional reaction pay attention to it. Get curious. Don’t ignore it.
If you have a strong emotional reaction, ask yourself these questions…
Why am I having this reaction?
When was the first time I had this reaction?
When was the last time I had this reaction?
Then, figure out how you want to handle your crossed boundary. Ask yourself these questions…
How did I handle this situation in the past?
What are my options/choices?
How do I want to handle this now and in the future?
Who can I talk to about this for support and/or ideas on way to handle this?
What are the consequences of someone crossing your boundary?
- Figure out the consequences if someone crosses your boundaries. Have a range of consequences for the same offense in case your boundary is crossed multiple times. Consequences can range from a friendly reminder to the end of a relationship or calling the police.
- Follow through with your consequences especially if you tell someone the consequence of breaking your boundary. If you don’t follow through, your word means nothing and your boundaries will continue to be pushed or crossed.
- When you set a boundary be consistent and the consequences should fit the severity of the crossed boundary (ex. Borrowing something without asking vs physical abuse)
Once you’ve decided how you want to handle the situation then take action.
Things to remember:
- When you set a boundary, you let go of the outcome. You have no control over other people’s behaviors. Even when you let someone know what your boundary is, you have no control whether they honor it.
- When someone crosses your boundaries, it does not give you permission to cross someone else’s boundaries. There is one exception… if your life is in danger.
- When you set a boundary, you don’t have to explain yourself. No is a complete sentence.
How to create a boundary: Assertive communication and boundary setting go hand in hand. When you set a boundary, you start with an I-Statement.
- Start with an I-Statement
- Set the boundary
- Come up with three or more consequences that range in severity for each boundary crossed.
I-Statement: When you don’t put down your phone and listen to me, I feel hurt and unimportant.
Boundary: I want you to put your phone down and listen to me.
Consequences: If you continue to look at your phone and not listen to me, 1. I will remind you that is hurtful, 2. Not make you a priority, or 3. Avoid you like a plague.
When you__________________________, I feel________________________. (Specific Unwanted Behavior) (Feeling/Emotion)
(Specific Change in Behavior)
If you continue___________________________________________________
(Specific Unwanted Behavior)
Julia Manfre is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a National Certified Counselor. She has a Master’s of Education degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Florida Atlantic University. Julia is a psychotherapist, the owner of Self-Care Solutions, a private practice that specializes in empowering women, a podcaster, she hosts the Self-Care Solutions Podcast, a blogger, and a Keynote Speaker. She has years of experience working in substance abuse treatment, crisis, trauma, and women’s issues.
Julia’s mission in life is to empower women and girls. She was a product of divorced parents and was raised by a single mom. She grew up in the DC area or the DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia) as it is affectionately known, in a small town in Maryland. She was brought up a die-hard Redskins fan. She loves beading, sewing, ballroom dancing, and Wonder Woman. She is passionate about women’s right and women’s empowerment. Julia is married, has a 6-year-old daughter, Lily, and three guinea pigs named Wuzzy, Lovey, and Yum Yum.