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As a psychotherapist, I am asked on a regular basis about boundaries. Most of my clients acknowledge a desire for healthier boundaries, but have no idea where to start!

Let's begin by understanding what boundaries are. In the realm of human relationships, boundaries are the invisible lines that define where one person ends and another begins. They influence how we interact with others--protecting our sense of self while fostering healthy connections.

Boundaries come in various forms: physical, emotional, and interpersonal. Physical boundaries involve personal space and touch, where as emotional boundaries relate to the protection of our feelings and emotional well-being Interpersonal boundaries govern the ways we communicate and engage with others.

Now, why are boundaries so crucial? Well, think of them as the foundation of a sturdy house. Without them, our relationships become shaky and unstable and oftentimes confusing. Boundaries provide a sense of safety and security, allowing us to express our needs, desires, and limits, while respecting those of others.

Below are some key principles for establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries:

  • Self-awareness:

  • Begin by understanding your own needs, values, and limits. Reflect on past experiences to identify patterns that may indicate where your boundaries have been compromised.

  • Connect with yourself--your own "gut" or sense of intuition is your best guide to setting boundaries. If you have a tendency not to trust your gut, I suggest working on this with a therapist. Trauma leaves us disconnected and oftentimes mistrustful of our intuition.

  • Clear communication:

  • Learn to express your thoughts and feelings openly and assertively. Effective communication is the cornerstone of setting and maintaining boundaries. Share your experience of how the boundary (or lack of) impacts you (use the good ole "I" statements here!)

  • Consistency:

  • Establishing boundaries is not a one-time event. It requires consistency over time. Be clear and unwavering in communicating and enforcing your boundaries, reinforcing the message that your needs are valid. Be prepared that your boundaries will be challenged so think it all the way through and only set the ones you are willing and able to enforce.

  • Respect for others:

  • Just as you have the right to set boundaries, others have the same right. Be mindful of respecting the boundaries of those around you. Healthy relationships are built on mutual understanding and consideration.

  • Flexibility:

  • Understand that boundaries may need to evolve and adapt as circumstances change. Flexibility does not mean compromising your core values but recognizing that adjustments may be necessary in certain situations....follow your gut!

  • Self-care:

  • Prioritize self-care as a crucial aspect of maintaining healthy boundaries. Recognize when you need to step back, recharge, and set aside time for yourself without guilt. Guilt is a complicated emotion (topic for another blog) but know that sometimes it is an indicator that we are on the right track in implementing change.

Remember, the goal is not to build impenetrable walls but rather to create doors and windows that allow for meaningful connections while preserving your individuality--more of a semi-permeable membrane. Finally, if you are struggling with the language or can't seem to get over the hump of setting boundaries--get some support! Change almost always includes some pain--even when it is for the best. Be patient and find someone to walk through the stages of change with you.

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