What are Boundaries and why are they important?

I thought I’d do a post on boundaries today because it’s something that has really helped me realise that my life has value. It’s also fair to point out that so many people don’t set boundaries or even know what they are…

Boundaries are like an invisible set of guidelines that you can set for yourself to protect yourself and if someone over steps these lines you recognise it straight away and move away from that situation, person or behaviour. They also give you the empowerment to decide what you want.

Boundaries have given me the tools I needed to put myself first and learn how to feel happy again. After shifting from depression to happiness I realise that setting boundaries had a lot to do with this…

I used to over work myself in all areas of life. I’d bend over backwards for employers, by taking on extra shifts that were difficult for me to cover, because of childcare or simply that I was exhausted because I couldn’t say ‘no’. In short I was a people ‘pleaser’, afraid that saying ‘no’ would upset people or make them dislike me.

I was constantly exhausted and would have huge slumps where I just felt like giving up. I found life hard, everyday was a huge and difficult chore and even my own kids used run circles round me.

It pains me to say all that and it’s hard to admit, but it’s true.

Do you know what I was missing? Boundaries… If you don’t set boundaries people tend to treat you like a door mat and this extends far beyond your personal life.

I was the type of person that just lets things happen because I felt powerless to stop them.

I felt lost and didn’t know how to enjoy myself anymore, I rarely had time to enjoy myself because it was filled with things that I was doing for other people. You could argue that that’s just motherhood, which to a certain extent is true but, this had gone so far that I didn’t know what I wanted. I let people tell me what to do and I was so out of tune with myself and my intuition I was burnt out, depressed and felt hopeless.

This surfaced as frustration, anger and irritability.

Something had to change, life was telling me to wake up and start living my own life…

A lack of boundaries…

So lets look at what a lack of boundaries looks like.

  1. You feel like you’re not as important as other people. Maybe your partner works and you don’t, you just stay at home and look after the kids. In this way you are already setting yourself up as less than your significant other. If you view yourself as equal to others your needs are just as important.
  2. You don’t put yourself first. You spend so much time on other people you’ve forgotten who you are or maybe you just don’t know yourself well enough? Spend some time on your own, go travelling for example, figure out what you like, what you don’t. The key here is to know yourself, you’ll soon figure out what you’re comfortable with and more importantly what you’re not comfortable with.
  3. You don’t feel like you have rights. If you’ve been through abuse in the past you’re often made to feel this way. Abusers are very good at making you feel like you don’t have rights. If you did know, you’d just leave because you’d know you deserve better, right?
  4. You can’t say ‘NO’. You might feel like saying no to someone will jeopardise your relationship with them. For example, imagine peer pressure, we’ve all been through that at some point right? Say you were with a group of people and they asked you to do something you didn’t want to do or you felt it was wrong, but then If you say no to them, you won’t be part of that group or they won’t accept you. Sometimes this extends into our adult life and we begin to think that people will not accept us for who we are. We think saying ‘no’ is a bad thing.
  5. You weren’t taught boundaries as a child. You may never have learnt to have healthy boundaries in childhood. If your boundaries weren’t respected as a child you may not even know that you are entitled to set them.

Types of Boundaries

There are several types of boundaries, these are;

Material boundaries they determine whether you give or lend things, such as your money, a car, clothes, books, food, or even your toothbrush.

Physical boundaries are about your personal space, privacy, and body. Do you give a handshake or a hug – to whom and when?

Mental boundaries apply to your thoughts, values, and opinions. Are you easily suggestible? Do you know what you believe, and can you hold onto your opinions?

Can you listen with an open mind to someone else’s opinion without becoming rigid? If you become highly emotional, argumentative, or defensive, you may have weak emotional boundaries.

Emotional boundaries can you separate your emotions? Are you happy, angry or sad? Do you take responsibility for them? It’s like an imaginary line or force field that separates you and others.

Healthy boundaries prevent you from giving advice, blaming or accepting blame.

They protect you from feeling guilty for someone else’s negative feelings or problems and taking others’ comments personally.

High reactivity suggests weak emotional boundaries.

Healthy emotional boundaries require clear internal boundaries – knowing your feelings and your responsibilities to yourself and others.

Sexual boundaries protect your comfort level with sexual touch and activity – what, where, when, and with whom.

Spiritual boundaries relate to your beliefs and experiences in connection with God or a higher power.

Take back that power and start setting boundaries…

So looking at the types of boundaries, I can work out that I had weak emotional boundaries.

I used to feel guilty a lot, in fact it was kind of my default setting, this was because I allowed people to make me feel this way.

I let the negative things people said about me, when I didn’t do what they want get to me and it affected how I viewed myself.

Imagine not carrying those feelings around with you anymore. When you start to understand and set boundaries you start to gain control over your own life and your choices.

In truth do people like you more because you run around doing what they want? No of course not, they just kept taking advantage because they can and it’s you who’s letting them do this. They more you let them take advantage the more they’re going to do it.

So eventually after a few failed relationships, some awful ‘friendships’, a lot of lessons learned and generally just feeling fed up of people taking advantage of my kind nature I decided to get some help.

I kept thinking to myself why don’t they listen to me? Why don’t they respect me? Why do people always say such mean things to me?

What I was about to learn is that you can choose to be selective.

You can choose who you listen to.

For example, If some random person in the street says something awful to you when your child is having a tantrum (I’m sure we’ve all been there), that problem is their problem, not yours.

You can choose to not listen to them.

You can choose to look at that person as someone negative with issues in their own life so they choose to try and bring you down. Don’t let them have power over you.

In this way you can also choose what you accept into your life and what you don’t.

If someone keeps doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable, tell them. If they do it again, it is clear that they haven’t listened and that they don’t respect you, so choose to put yourself first and minimise the contact you have with them.

In this way you respect yourself and give yourself what you deserve.

Boundaries are the mental, emotional and physical limits that we set so others can understand how to treat you, behave around you, and what they can expect from you.

Not only do boundaries defend us from being violated by others, they help us to clearly distinguish who we are and what we need from other people.

Boundaries are vital for our healthy self-respect and self-worth. Enforcing healthy boundaries allows us to clearly voice our truth and communicate our needs.

They give us the space we need to shine and the capability to put out own needs first.

I’m still working on how to set boundaries, but my life has improved so much since I took the time to improve myself.

When I realised these things were happening because I was letting them life got a bit easier.


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9 thoughts on “What are Boundaries and why are they important?

  1. Great post! I liked how you mentioned different types of boundaries, and also what not having boundaries feels like.

    Physical and material ones are hard for me. Not because I cant make them or have them but because try to blatantly ignore them, and, ridicule me for being petty or selfish for having them at all. Boundaries take a little courage. and Persistence.

    I believe that everyone gets to be “in charge”—
    1. IN their own house
    2. ON their own property, and yes, also—
    3. IN YOUR OWN car when other people are riding as passengers.

    Some folks are arrogant and bossy and try to be in charge, when they aren’t. Because they on on *your* “Turf”. THEY, want you to “show consideration” and respect their Turf, but often they wont do the same.

    Here is a very good TEST SCENARIO:

    You are in your own car and you are driving. You are taking a fun weekend road trip. It is 4hrs., one-way. You have 4 or 5 of your favorite music CD’s with you to enjoy as you cruise down the freeways. It makes the whole trip go better and you deserve to enjoy yourself. But, there is someone else, one other family member going with you, voluntarily. You leave to start the trip, engaging in small-talk for the first 4 or 5 miles as you leave the house. Then, you put in a music CD and the other person says:

    “Turn that off. I hate that crap. Listen to it on YOUR OWN time.” (Note: If I, or you, “give-in” to this, what do you think will happen next time?}

    My Reply: : excuse me? On my-own-time? If I am still alive and breathing on this earth, IT IS “my time”. Do iii come over to your house, and if you happen to have FOX NEWS playing on your TV when I arrive, do I say: I hate that crap, put in on CNN and watch that other garbage on your OWN time? No. I don’t. You would tell me to go “take a hike” (or worse) and that it is–your House! Well, this is–my car!

    Them: But you could leave. I am a captive audience.
    My reply: No. You are not. I will be more than happy to pull over and let you out right now.
    Them: That’s “Inconsiderate”, or selfish.
    Me: Inconsiderate? Let’s talk about that. If a friend or co-worker gave you a ride home from work while your car is in the shop, You probably wouldn’t tell them to change the radio station or music CD while they drove you home. You–are on their “turf”. You need to “be considerate” to THEM.

    Them: You’re only thinking about yourself. You have no right to “inflict” me with this. Me: HA! That’s rich. “inflict” you??—I am simply doing what I would do ANYWAY, if you weren’t even here! And why should I lessen, diminish or restrict my happiness just because you are here? Imagine YOU had a friend and you denied yourself this or that whenever they came over. In all seriousness, WHY would pick someone like that to be your friend? Why cant you just be yourself and do what you would do anyway even if they were not with you.

    Them: because they ARE with you.
    Me: Yes. and VOLUNTARILY. and on MY “turf”. Therefore, they can respect that and THEY can “show some consideration” just as I dont come over to your house and tell you what TV channel to have on and–another thing=-=-NO ONE FORCED YOU, to ride with me!

    Them: well, 3 hrs without your music wont kill you.
    Me: And my having it on for 3 hrs won’t kill you, either. When I’m in your car, you can play whatever you want, but right now your in my car. Music makes any trip go better. I’m within my rights. You chose to ride with me voluntarily.

    And there you have it. All over the internet, we can find 650 people who write about Boundaries…and that we should have them….and be assertive….and have self-esteem….and yet, when an everyday situation like this pops up, will they stand their ground or will the Boundary somehow “not really matter so much this time?” I wish I could take a poll with this. 🙂

    1. Wow, what a deep and responsive answer:)

      Well firstly this car journey sounds like a nightmare. You can see that this person is instantly trying to test you and be in control. The fact that you’re doing the work and driving them somewhere and they have the cheek to disrespect you and tell you what to do is a blatant test of your boundaries.

      Also what they’re saying about your taste in music is extremely rude. It’s saying that what you like is rubbish and what they like is better. It’s actually a dig at you. They’re jabbing at yourself esteem.

      Tricky situation also being in a car with someone on a long journey. Asking someone to get out miles from anywhere could be seen as cruel and chances are if you’re driving them somewhere, you’re already the kind one so you’re unlikely to do this. They play on this and make you feel guilty.

      In this scenario, is it the first time they have pushed your boundaries? If it was, this would be a bit of a red flag for me. They might just be having a bad day, so I’d let it slide but I’d keep a notebook and make myself aware of their behaviour if it happens again.

      I would say if someone is pushing you, can feel it straight away. You feel overwhelmed and upset that someone would make you feel this way. You’re also told that what you are feeling is wrong.

      Later in the argument they say ‘You’re only thinking about yourself. You have no right to “inflict” me with this.’ There are so many things about this statement that upset me when I read it… firstly it’s about shame and guilt. This is emotional abuse. It’s about making you feel shame and feel guilt for not giving into their demands. The word inflict is completely out of place to. It’s disguised as a funny over the top word but it’s really offensive.

      Personally if someone spoke me like this after I had gone out of my way to help them I would cut them out of my life and find someone who respected me, chances are they’d like your music too because they’d see it as a reflection of who you are… But life isn’t always that simple.

      Boundaries are hard to put in place. It takes practice and patience. Keep going and people like this will learn they can’t push you anymore. It also gets easier to spot the more you try. You become clearer on what is acceptable to you and what is not.

      I also have a post on emotional abuse that you might like to read : https://startingtoday.blog/2020/10/26/recovering-from-emotional-abuse/

      I hope this helps 💜

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