Boundary Building Skill
Our emotional health is related to the health of our boundaries. When we grow up in a dysfunctional family or one that was chaotic, learning to use boundaries is one of the most uncomfortable set of clothes to try on. It threatens our former understanding of our self and our survival. Hence, it goes against every grain (or cell) of our being. With time, the wardrobe changes. We come to see ourselves as clearly separate from others. Intact and clear boundaries feel good. Healthy boundaries are flexible enough that we can choose what to let in and what to keep out. We can determine to exclude meanness and hostility and let in affection, kindness, and positive regard.
If you were parented in a way that you learned to stay within certain boundaries and why it mattered, there’s a good chance you learned how to set and enforce boundaries of your own. If the ways in which you were disciplined as a child weren’t clearly marked with an understanding of where the boundary was or why it was relevant, it may be more challenging for you to identify and state your boundaries to others as an adult—or to honor and respect the boundaries of others.
It’s important to note that sometimes people cross upon your boundaries (and vice versa) unknowingly. If you haven’t been clear that you have a boundary then you shouldn’t necessarily expect the other person to honor it. Of course, there are extreme examples, but this should be understood in common situations you encounter in your families, friendships, relationships, and in the workplace.
Identifying Your Boundaries
To set boundaries in any area of your life, you must first know what is important to you as well as what is a “go” or a “no go.” For many people, infidelity in their relationship is a “no go.” In your job, being yelled at by your boss or torpedoed by your peers may be a threshold. For some, family arguments at holiday gatherings might be a strong boundary.
Communicating and Enforcing Your Boundaries
Now that you know what your boundaries and the thresholds are, you’re ready to communicate them. In some instances, this may be easier said than done, and in some cases, you may find that it’s not difficult at all. The key is being mindful of how you communicate.
Your Physical Boundaries
Your life is yours. You are the one accountable for your choices. You bear the consequences of your decisions and your body bears the consequences of your decisions about it. You choose what to eat, how much to exercise, how much you will rest. The care of your body is in your hands and you are the one that lives with the results. If you decide to floss your teeth, you get to enjoy healthy gums. If you decide to live in a way that keeps you driven and tense, you are the one who lives with high blood pressure, greater susceptibility to illness, and strained relationships.
Emotional boundaries define the self. Assaults to boundaries threaten the self. The following harm emotional boundaries: ridicule, contempt, insistence of conformity, judgments, any kind of abuse, abandonment, threats, or insecurity.