Emotional Health Editor
Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered social worker with a private practice in Cobourg, Ontario. Visit her online at: maureenpollardmsw.com
"If someone disregards your clearly stated needs or desires, and if they continue to act in ways that make you uncomfortable when you have asked them to stop, it’s okay to distance yourself from them."
A boundary is a rule or a limit we set about how other people may interact with us. We set physical boundaries dealing with how people can touch us or handle our belongings. We set psychological boundaries that let people know how to interact with us in a way that respects and accepts our beliefs and values.
When we know what makes us feel safe and comfortable, we can set a limit and be clear with the people we interact with to help them know how to behave so that we feel safe and comfortable with them. This is an important way to establish a healthy relationship that creates a positive experience for both people involved.
Healthy boundaries help us:
Set expectations when relating with others,
Help you feel independent, empowered, and comfortable,
Clarify individual roles and responsibilities in any kind of relationship.
So, what does it take to set healthy boundaries with the people in your lives?
Self-Awareness. It’s important to know yourself and what makes you feel safe and comfortable with others. Pay attention to how you feel when someone says something or behaves in some way that impacts you. If it feels uncomfortable, that’s where a boundary can help to ensure your needs and desires are met in the relationship.
Communication. When you notice that something makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s helpful to clearly identify your discomfort and communicate what you would prefer to happen. If you don’t like it when someone swears at you, setting a healthy boundary means telling them directly that their language makes you uncomfortable and you would prefer they not speak to you that way.
Assertiveness. Letting others know your limits in a firm tone lets them know this is important to you. Be clear and direct about what you want them to stop doing when they are with you, and what you would prefer they do instead. This leaves little room for confusion.
What happens when you set healthy boundaries, and someone disrespects them? That can be your cue that this relationship is likely unhealthy, whether it’s a brand-new person in your life or someone who’s been around awhile. If someone disregards your clearly stated needs or desires, and if they continue to act in ways that make you uncomfortable when you have asked them to stop, it’s okay to distance yourself from them. You have a right to feel safe and comfortable with the people you spend time with, and safety and comfort have a foundation in healthy boundaries.