I often talk to clients during counselling about establishing healthy boundaries in their life.
“Healthy boundaries are those boundaries that are set to make sure you are mentally and emotionally stable.” (Prism Health North Texas, n.d.)
“Our boundaries might be rigid, loose, somewhere in between, or even non-existent. A complete lack of boundaries may indicate that we don’t have a strong identity or are enmeshed with someone else.” (Cleantis, 2017).
Setting boundaries is an important part of establishing one’s identity and an important aspect of mental health and well-being.
But creating healthy boundaries is not an easy process. When you start creating boundaries for yourself there is often pushback from those people in your life who have benefitted from your unhealthy boundaries.
And it can be especially difficult for those who have experiences of trauma or abuse, where freedom of choice has been limiting/prevented.
So I often tell clients to start very slowly, test out some small boundaries and see how it makes you feel.
Initially you might feel guilty, for example, but that tends to be our default pattern and, in my personal experience, this soon subsides and you begin to really cherish and respect your own boundaries.
Often feelings like guilt originate from how someone else has made you feel or treated you (e.g. friends, family, childhood caregivers, work colleagues).
One example of testing a boundary may be turning down an invitation to attend a certain event or occasion.
Many times we may feel obliged to attend even though, for whatever reason, we have no desire or huge need to go.
And in the UK there is routinely peer pressure to drink alcohol on a night out. Saying no to that can be tricky and we often cave in!
Boundaries seem to get tested in work environments in so many different ways.
I’m sure you can think of a few and there’s plenty of us who like to vent work place frustrations to family, friends and to counsellors.
What springs to mind for me is micromanagement which can feel really suffocating.
At first it may be hard emotionally to respect our own boundaries but once we do it can be transformative. It sounds simple but for so many of us it’s not and change isn’t easy.
Hence why we may struggle with managing our newly formed boundaries initially until we begin to get used to it and respect them.
Once you do, you feel much better for it. I know I do.
Healthy people have healthy boundaries and those who respect your personal boundaries are the type of people you should try and surround yourself with in life.
Healthy boundaries can include.
- Saying no without guilt and saying yes because you want to (not out of obligation).
- Feeling safe to express your own difficult emotions and have constructive disagreements with people.
- Taking responsibility for your own happiness and not feeling overly burdened by someone else’s unhappiness.
- Staying true to yourself and being in tune with your own values, beliefs, thoughts and feelings.
Below are some Instagram posts/an infograph which you may find useful. Click on the Instagram posts for more info.
If you are interested in starting counselling, you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text me on 07866628250.