I was talking to a fellow coach the other day, and we both talked about how important it is to have boundaries and how having healthy boundaries affects all areas of our lives. As the convenience of technologies and information attempt to consume us 24/7, it is crucial for those who desire a stress-less life and meaningful relationships to understand the importance of setting proper boundaries. I am not only writing this blog post for you, writing on this topic also serves as a great reminder for my busy life.
Types of personal boundaries
University of California Berkeley defines personal boundaries as “The limits and rules people set for themselves within relationships.”
American Psychological Association describes boundaries as “A psychological demarcation that protects the integrity of a person or group or helps the person or group set realistic limits on participation in relationships or activities.”
While there may be many different types of personal boundaries, I’d like to focus on the followings:
- Physical boundaries
- Emotional boundaries
- Time boundaries
- Moral/Value boundaries
- Social media boundaries
1. Physical boundaries
Physical boundaries have to do with your space, your body, when to be active or at rest, or even what and when you eat.
The most obvious type of physical boundaries is the distance people keep when conversing with others. Some people like to get really close; however, it’d make you super uncomfortable, or even feel under pressure if you are a person who needs more space.
Another example is physical touch. For huggers who are passionate or compassionate, hugging comes naturally; however, there are people who just don’t want to be touched, let along being hugged even if it is out of the right motive. This leads to our next point for consideration: cultural differences.
Culture is always reflected in what we do, what we accept as the norm and unconsciously how sometimes we make judgement about others’ behaviors. So, if you work or study with people from different parts of the world, it’s always helpful to see things from their perspectives by asking questions and learning how you can appropriately develop meaningful relationships while not making them feel their physical boundaries are being violated.
2. Emotional boundaries
This type of boundaries is about honoring and respecting others’ emotions, feelings and thoughts. When it comes to emotions, it is hard to define the right or wrong way to connect with each other emotionally because everyone is different.
A typical emotional boundaries example is that you may be whining about your problems for the purpose of venting and feeling better. Not knowing your emotional needs, your partner jumps in and tries to be kind to offers all possible solutions. How does that make you feel? I bet you probably feel unheard and maybe even frustrated and discouraged.
3. Time boundaries
It is often said time is money. I’d stretch it even further by saying time sometimes is more precious than money, because once it’s gone, you will never get it back. Having healthy time boundaries will help you first acknowledge the preciousness of time, then prioritize tasks and to dos so you can clearly see what’s the most important and meaningful both short and long terms. Having healthy time boundaries is crucial at work, home and social occasions; it could avoid the possibility of overcommitting and burning out.
A simple time boundaries example is having a clear idea between the time your family needs from you vs. the time you want to spend finishing something that may not be so urgent at work. If you promise to play ball with your children, keeping that promise sure means more to the relationship than finishing one of the non-urgent projects that you have on your work desk on the weekend.
4. Moral (or Value) boundaries
Our culture changes and reinvents itself over time. Without clear moral/value boundaries, you very well may get into endless discussions or debates with others which ultimately drains, overwhelms and exhausts you. It’s inevitable and it’s okay to share different political, social or spiritual belief from others, but to avoid possible and unnecessary stress and tension, be sure to inform those around you your conviction, value and belief behind your thoughts and actions.
5. Social media boundaries
Are you the type of person replying chats and messages right away and expecting others to do the same? Or maybe you need your privacy and aren’t as active as your friends on social media?Whatever your reference is, setting good social media boundaries will not disappoint you, neither your circle of friends.
If you have a fixed time for social media consumption, or specific time for engaging with your virtual friends, communicate with them. By doing so, you will feel less anxious, more at peace, and most importantly, you won’t have friends being mad at you for not being responsive.
Benefits of healthy boundaries
- It’s a way to better care of yourself and the ones you love
- To be more in tune with yourself, your thoughts and motives
- Less stress, burnout and more contentment and happiness
- Less anxiety, anger, frustration, conflict or misunderstanding
- Feeling understood and respected and becoming more understanding to others
- Becoming a better and more confident communicator
- Having more enriched relationships with others
- Better work-life balance
How to set boundaries
Here are 6 ways to help you set healthy boundaries in your professional and personal life.
1. Know your needs and limits
Setting healthy boundaries starts with knowing your personal needs and limits! Pay attention to the things that make you comfortable vs. agitated, what puts you at ease, and what stresses you out. Exploring, reflecting and writing them down why they are each important to you will help you gain better clarity of your own needs and limit.
2. Make your boundaries known to others
The next step is to communicate and express your boundaries to others clearly and honestly, so that no ambiguity exists in your relationships. “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind,” said Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston. If you don’t communicate clearly and honestly, how can you expect others to know and expect your needs for boundaries? This can be as simple as telling your friends and family that you turn your phone off at 9pm every day because you need to be well charged for the day ahead.
3. Hold the line
Everyone’s limits and boundaries are different, and even with your honest communication, your friends may still not understand or respect such needs for your boundaries. It’s crucial to stand firm and reiterate them kindly while doing ongoing self-reflections, which will help others to see and respect your boundaries long term as well as challenging yourself to refine your expectations of your boundaries.
4. It’s okay to say no
It’s so hard for a lot of people to say no, but majority of the time, it is not only important, but necessary, to say no. You can read more about why it’s hard to say no and the tips on how to say no from my old blogpost “Learning how to say no.”
5. Practice makes progress and perfect
I bet you practice for your speeches, presentations, sports games, exams, or even how you want to talk to people to achieve certain results. And if you have children, when they fall short of their expectations, I bet you encourage and challenge them to practice even more and make incremental improvements. The same mentality around practice also applies for setting your needed boundaries.
6. Recognize and respect others’ boundaries
Now you are clear on your limits and clearly communicate your boundaries to others, it’s time to also acknowledge and respect those of others. Relationships are a two-way street, and paying attention to what others say and desire will only strengthen your healthy relationship with your loved ones and friends you care for.
It may take some time and work to identify the important boundaries for yourself; however, boundaries are necessary for your own good, as well as healthy relationships with others. If you need someone to journey alongside you and set the needed boundaries, get in touch with us today!
About Faye Weng
Your Online Life and Career Coach
Faye Weng is an expert life and career coach who works with clients to take back control of their lives by rediscovering their passions, living/working with a clear purpose, and becoming people who can positively impact the communities around them. As your life and career coach, Faye will help you minimize noises and distractions, focus your effort and attention on the right things, execute a clear plan of action, and celebrate alongside of you when each milestone is reached. Click here to book a complimentary session.