Every human being needs to be able to feel safe in their bodies, their environments, and their relationships. Safety and security require boundaries. Boundaries are also essential in order for you to develop and maintain authentic relationships. People with clear boundaries cultivate generosity, connection, security, and integrity in their lives. A lack of clear boundaries leads to resentment, misunderstanding, and anxiety, making it incredibly challenging (or impossible) to feel safe. Ultimately, boundaries are about respecting you and your needs while also respecting the needs of others.
Boundaries can be a slippery word, and we hope to clarify what boundaries are and give you a starting place to do boundary work in your life.
“When boundaries are in place, we feel safer to express our authentic wants and needs, we are better able to regulate our autonomic nervous system response, and we rid ourselves of the resentment that comes along with denying our essential needs.” Dr. Nicole LePera
What are boundaries?
Dr. Nicole LePera defines boundaries as: “the clear limits that separate you (your thoughts, beliefs, needs, emotions, and physical and emotional spaces) from others.” With this definition, boundaries are about understanding yourself and what you need to take good care of you. Brené Brown defines boundaries as what is okay and what it not okay. Both of these authors acknowledge boundaries as the parameters that need to be in place in your life for you to feel safe and be able to show up as your whole self. Boundaries are 100% about and for YOU. A boundary is not an ultimatum to change someone else’s behavior. A boundary is about attending to our essential needs and building a sound environment. You learn to set boundaries by recognizing what you need to feel safe and then sharing those insights in every area of your life.
People with healthy boundaries prioritize their needs, feel safe, and experience true connection. Living with boundaries allows us to be as we really are and to be with others as they really are.
Brené writes about what she calls living BIG (Boundaries, Integrity, Generosity.) She says, “Living BIG is saying, ‘Yes, I am going to be generous in my assumptions and interactions while standing solidly in my integrity and being very clear about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.” She cultivates this way of being by asking herself: what boundaries need to be in place so that I can keep my integrity and be generous in my assumptions? Living BIG requires self-enquiry, honest listening, and then compassionate implementation.
in·teg·ri·ty | noun
1 the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness
2 the state of being whole and undivided
from French intégrité or Latin integritas, from integer ‘intact’
Types of Boundaries
A boundary can be anything you need it to be, it just requires that you are extremely clear with yourself and others about what is okay and what is not okay. The boundaries you need are also beautifully specific to you – your body, your space, your mind, your heart. As you set boundaries in your life, it is helpful to have a framework to understand the types of boundaries.
There are 3 main types of boundaries:
Physical boundaries are about honoring your body and your personal space. They include what you need for your body to feel safe and what you need for your personal spaces such as your home/car to feel safe.
Example: If you are uncomfortable when a relative gives you a hug without asking, a physical boundary could be: My body feels uncomfortable when people hug me without my permission. To create space for more physical comfort I need people to ask me if it is okay to hug me.
Resource boundaries are about honoring your spirit. They include protecting your time and energy, being able to choose what you give attention to, and being clear about your emotional capacity and responsibility.
Example: If you feel like you are overexerting yourself for work, a resource boundary could be: My resources feel overdrawn when I am always “on call” for work. To make more space for my energy, I will not check my work email or make work calls on the weekend or after hours.
Mental / Emotional Boundaries
Mental / Emotional Boundaries are about honoring your mind and emotions. They include what you need to be comfortable showing up and being seen and being able to choose who you share your personal thoughts, opinions, and beliefs with.
Example: If you feel that a coworker is critical of your beliefs, a mental/emotional boundary could be: I feel unsafe when so and so criticizes my personal viewpoints. To create space for emotional safety at work, I will no longer share my personal thoughts with this person or engage in personal conversations with them.
How to Set Boundaries
What do I need to do to make sure my needs are met?
Setting boundaries is a hard skill to learn and undoubtedly comes with discomfort. Give yourself grace as you learn this skill. You learn to set boundaries by recognizing what you need to feel safe and then sharing those insights in every area of your life.
Clear is Kind
Brené writes, “Setting boundaries is making clear what is okay, what is not okay, and why.” As an adult, it is your work to take care of you and to meet your needs. Setting boundaries is all about getting clear with yourself on what you need to do to take care and also clearly communicating those needs with the people in your life. Clarity is kindness. Setting boundaries has three steps: define, set, maintain.
Step One: Define the Boundary
What do you need?
To understand what you need, you have to spend some time in self inquiry. The more you honestly witness yourself and understand what your body, mind, and spirit need, the better able you will be to take care of yourself. Explore your relational patterns (how you are in relation to others) and see where you need a boundary to live BIG.
Step Two: Set the Boundary
Communicate your needs.
Setting boundaries is a skill and takes practice. The clearer you can communicate your needs, the more likely they are to be met. When you communicate a new boundary, it is best to do it in an emotionally neutral setting. Setting boundaries does make changes in your life and relationships. Remember, other people’s reactions are not your responsibility. Your boundaries are for you. Communicate with clarity and respect. Remain present and calm and use I statements. Focus on your behavior and how your actions will be changing. Be clear about what is okay, what is not okay, and why this boundary is important.
Step Three: Maintain the Boundary
Live from your new boundaries.
Once you have communicated your new boundaries, it is important to keep your integrity and hold the boundary. Do not go back to your old patterns. The boundaries you set are here to protect you and help you thrive. Resist the urge to defend or over explain yourself. It is common to feel selfish or guilty when you start to meet your previously denied needs. Creating and maintain boundaries is some of the hardest work to do on your healing journey. Be patient, present, and graceful with yourself and others.
. . .
Setting boundaries is important work and essential in cultivating wellness. Without boundaries generosity, vulnerability, and authenticity are impossible. With boundaries, you invite openness, respect, peace, and belonging into your life.
- How to Do the Work by Dr. Nicole LePera
- Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Honestly, anything done by Brené Brown. Visit her website here.