Imagine your life contained in a house with a fence around it to mark where your property ends and where your neighbour’s begins. If you woke up one day and noticed that your neighbour had torn down part of your fence and built a shed in your yard, you would have good reason to tell them that you weren’t okay with what they had done.
Boundaries are metaphorical fences; they represent our limits, individuality and values that protect the environment of our life. Your boundaries will evolve with time and some might be more or less concrete than others.
Types of Boundaries:
There are many different kinds of boundaries and are not limited to this list, but it’s a good starting off point in your ‘fence building’ journey.
Physical Boundaries include your personal bubble, your right to privacy and your physical needs, like rest.
For your safety during the pandemic, you’re happy to go on socially distanced walks with friends but not spend time with them indoors.
To communicate this to someone who invites you over to their house, try saying, “Thanks for inviting me! I’d love to come over when it’s safe to, but for now I’d prefer to hang out outside. How about a walk?”
Emotional or Mental Boundaries separate your feelings from someone else’s. They allow you to only be responsible for your own feelings.
After a lunch with a friend who’s going through a challenging time, you remember that their struggles are not your own, so you don’t feel sad for the rest of the day.
Sexual Boundaries include your right to consent, the kinds of sexual acts you want to perform or receive, or who you want to be intimate with.
Deciding that you feel comfortable with oral sex but not penetrative sex.
This boundary involves consent, which is important to express before engaging in sex. It is an ongoing limit and would only change when you explicitly tell your partner.
To start the conversation, you can say, “I like when you…” or “I enjoy…” and “I don’t enjoy…”.
Time Boundaries include protecting the ways you spend your time and preventing being overworked.
Letting your co-worker know that you won’t be able to pick up that extra shift because you need to study.
Just like when someone crosses past your fence, it can be uncomfortable to let them know that they’ve emerged into your territory. This is especially true for people we live with or close friends, because they may push your boundaries without knowing. Expressing your limits may come as a shock to some, so it’s normal for it to be challenging to vocalize and maintain them. Our past experiences will also influence where we feel our limits should be. People are often used to having their fences crossed; some may put up very strong fences as soon as they meet new people and others may feel like they can’t put up any at all.
It can take a lifetime to develop boundaries. Bringing awareness to your fences and slowly integrating small practices, like saying no more often, can prevent unnecessary stressors and lead to a happier and healthier life!