What Are Healthy Boundaries?

Healthy people have healthy boundaries. What are boundaries? They are the physical and emotional barriers that establish the division between you and the outside world. What are healthy boundaries? Healthy boundaries are semi-permeable limits that allow you to have life giving contact with the world. You neither give too much nor receive too little.

If you picture a circle with a dot in the middle, you are the dot. The circle is the boundary. For some people, this circle is a solid wall that reaches to the sky. Nothing can get in or out. These boundaries are too rigid and don’t allow meaningful interaction with people. Some people have  circle that is falling down in places and can easily be breached. These boundaries are too weak. They are easy to overstep and often leave the person inside the circle feeling violated or unsafe.

Healthy boundaries are more like having a sturdy fence with a strong gate. They are semi-permeable, meaning they let some things in and some things out. They are flexible and adjust to circumstances. They allow the person inside to grow.

Types of Boundaries

Physical boundaries have to do with your body, your space, and your stuff. You have a right to decide how much touch, personal space, and privacy you require. You have a responsibility to let others know your comfort zone. Your money, clothes, and electronics are yours. It’s up to you to choose whether or not you wish to share them with others. You can say under what conditions you will do this. Others also have this right and responsibility.

Mental boundaries surround your thoughts, values, and beliefs. You have a right to your own thoughts. You don’t have to share them. You don’t have to explain or defend them unless you want to. Signs of weak mental boundaries: you get upset when other’s express their opinions or thoughts; you can’t stand up for your opinions; you don’t know what you think or easily change your mind.

Emotional boundaries surround your feelings. You have a right to your feelings. So do others. If you find yourself taking on the feelings of others, blaming, taking blame, trying to calm others down or solve their problems, or just being highly reactive in emotional situations, you may have unhealthy emotional boundaries.

Creating and maintaining healthy boundaries is a skill. The more you practice, the better you get at it. Here are some guidelines that can help.

  • Practice mindfulness. This can help get and keep you centered. It can help you tune into how you feel. It can help you act instead of react. It can help you stay clearheaded.
  • Figure out what your boundaries are. If you are aware of what you find acceptable and unacceptable, it will keep you from wavering when your boundaries are tested.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this my issue?” or “Do I have the power to change this?” If not, let it go. Pressing forward is a violation of someone else’s boundaries.
  • If you are whining, begging, or demanding that someone do something, you’re encroaching on someone else’s boundaries. People have a right to do what they want. Accept it. If this is not a something you can live with, you may have to take other steps to respect your own boundaries.
  • Ask for what you want directly and respectfully. This tends to get better results and keeps things clear.
  • Know your worth. When you believe you are worthy of respect and kindness, it’s easier to stand up for yourself without feeling guilty.
  • Practice regular self-care. When you’re at your peak level of functioning, it is easier to do everything.
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