When I first heard the term ‘boundaries’ a million thoughts went through my mind… am I meant to construct a wall or bomb shelter around myself? Am I meant to build unscalable fences or live in a protective bubble? What happens if my boundaries are too insurmountable and I am left alone and isolated? Our boundaries aren’t as in your face as a barbed wire fence or a giant “no trespassing” sign, unfortunately. They’re more like invisible bubbles there to remind you of your limits… defined rules to guide you through relationships, whether familial, work, romantic or those with passing strangers. Even though boundaries can be difficult to navigate, having them and expressing them in a healthy manner is essential for our well-being, and even our safety.

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” – Brené Brown

Like everything in life, boundaries require you to find the balance that works for you. Boundaries are defined as the limits we set with others, and indicate what we find acceptable and unacceptable in their behaviour towards us.

Unconsciously boundaries are formed through past experiences and modelling behaviour that we have been exposed to growing up. As renowned psychologist Albert Bandura stated, a lot of human social learning comes from modelled behaviour, which means if we do not have adequate role models whose behavior we can copy and later imitate, we are at a loss, often left fumbling and frustrated. We are then left to learn these skills through trial and error.

So what kind of boundaries are there?

Remember when defining boundaries for yourself that everyone you come into contact with has, or should have, their own set of boundaries. Since they are not you, their boundaries will be very different from yours, shaped by their own experiences and you need to extend the same courtesy TO them that you are expecting FROM them… by respecting their boundaries, and not encroaching on them.

Boundaries need to be flexible so they can change as you grow

We are always growing, changing and adapting. It therefore can be expected that our boundaries will change as we do. Don’t allow your boundaries to become rigid and inflexible. Reassess yourself and your relationships regularly. Be careful not to become so flexible though that your boundaries become lost in another’s. Remember your boundaries give you autonomy, freedom and safety and the same applies to your partner.

Defining our boundaries and setting them in place in our daily lives are two very different challenges to overcome. Setting boundaries does not always come easily and can be met with resistance if people around you are used to taking advantage of your lack of boundaries. It’s often a skill that needs to be learned, but one that is worth the effort and will facilitate you in being the best version of yourself. 

By Debbie Taylor