The Importance of Drawing a Line with Self and Others

Boundaries are lines and limits that we set for ourselves that defines us from and with others. It is about understanding where you end and the other individual starts, as well as knowing what is yours and what is not as well. It is important to have personal boundaries to be in healthy relationships and set basic guidelines of how you would like to be treated. 

This helps in understanding that every individual is responsible for themselves. 

Boundaries begin to form in infancy through family and environmental interactions. In a healthy family, a child is helped to become a unique individual by developing a self-concept separate from other family members. Healthy families promote members’ self-actualization. We learn about our boundaries by the way we are treated as children, and then we teach others where our boundaries are by the way we let them treat us. Many of us are conditioned to dismiss our boundaries and have parents who ignored or invalidated them. For example: Snooping or reading your journal by ignoring your privacy boundaries. Many of you have not seen adults in your lives who have modelled healthy boundaries in their own lives or relationships which makes it highly uncomfortable for us.

Some ways to understand that you were not modelled healthy boundaries are :

  1. When you feel guilty or shameful for declining to do something that you do not want to. 
  2. When you question if you have the right to have time for yourself or if you are being selfish .
  3. Having a difficult time understanding if the emotional response of other individuals is your responsibility or theirs.

Setting Boundaries with Yourself

Establishing boundaries with one’s self  is just as important in setting with others. Boundaries around your time, activities, the way one conveys and treats oneself. The following are vital in building a healthy and strong relationship with individuals in your life. Self-directed boundaries will look different for every person . You get to decide what will help you have better control over your day and an increased level of contentment.

Boundaries with self can be hard to start with, but you can start building on these habits which can look like: 

  1. Aiming your focus on the current moment whether you are focusing on a task or a conversation, and not interrupting it by managing or thinking about something else. Multitasking is proven to exhaust your energy, decrease productivity, and decline in your enjoyment of everyday activities.
  2. Beginning and ending your day in a healthy manner. 
  3. Laying down time limits for any exposure to external stimuli that is comparatively more harmful than beneficial which seem to be draining. 
  4. Making mindful intentional choices about what you preoccupy yourself with. The materials we read and watch do have an effect on our mental well-being. Start by taking a moment to notice how your everyday activities make you feel subsequently if it adds value to your day or affects your emotions in a negative manner. 
  5. Recognizing the things that add you nourishment and mending ourselves. Treating your meal and sleep like non- negotiable parts of your day that are meant to be appreciated. 
  6. Replacing unhelpful habits with habits that help in functioning in a healthier manner. 
  7. Asserting yourself in your mind and working on letting go of the thoughts that hinder or sabotage you.   

Setting Boundaries with Others

When you set boundaries with others, you are not looking to control the other individual. However, all you can do is control our response. It is very important to understand that everyone has the right to feel differently about the boundaries we set.

 Below are the ways to implement boundaries:

  1. Clearly and Objectively state the boundary–  For example: I won’t be answering emails after 7pm. 
  2. Identify when the boundary is crossed – Our nervous system connects the brain and body and is a very good source of information to recognize when a boundary is being crossed. When we start to feel angry or threatened, we go into the fight or flight or freeze response. Our body may start to shake, heart races, face flushes and our breathing rate increases. Listen to your body and recognize that these responses mean your body is trying to protect you. 
  3. Communicate your needs without focussing on the other person– Start setting your boundary with understand what are your needs not how you want another person to behave, for example “ I need some space to respond to your text messages” rather than : ”I need you to stop bombarding me with texts before I get a chance to reply”.
  4. Communicate your Boundary – Avoid the state of over explaining by defending your Ego: The ego tends to defend, observe this and resist the urge to explain. Remember that NO is a complete sentence and you do not have to explain yourself if you do not want to. The important part is to use a kind and respectful tone. Use simple and direct language, for example ”I can only stay for an hour”. 
  5. Set the Consequences – Some people are very good at respecting boundaries once we communicate them . However, there are people who may take your boundaries seriously if there are no consequences to crossing them. Let them know what will happen if the boundary is violated. Try avoiding harsh ultimatums as the goal here is to maintain mutual respect and understanding, not to create conflict.
  6. Expect the Pushback – Stand your ground and stay strong. If you give into the other person’s resistance, you invite  them to ignore your needs . Setting boundaries is a sign of self respect. However, not setting healthy boundaries can result in you letting other people push you around, upset you , harm you. 

Boundaries are the path to self-empowerment. Maintaining boundaries allows us to gain trust in ourselves to take care of ourselves. It results in a healthy sense of control and overall well-being.