Setting Boundaries

In theory, personal boundaries are guidelines, rules, or limits that you create to identify reasonable and safe ways for other people to behave towards you. In practice, personal boundaries are difficult to establish, let alone maintain.

So, what truly goes into boundary setting and why is it so hard to do?

Think of your personal space—that bubble that surrounds you everywhere you go. Some people have an easier time respecting that physical space than others. The same goes for mental space. Our personal boundaries are not always obvious to others, especially since they are so personal to each of us.

Something to remember is that every relationship might look different when it comes to setting boundaries. My relationship with my mom has different boundaries than my relationship with my partner, for example. So, why are boundaries important? They are mainly used to ensure a healthy and positive space within your relationships. When you practice communication your needs in a relationship, you are more likely to feel safe and understood.

Ever wanted to set boundaries with that certain someone but was never sure on where to start? Here are some questions to ask yourself when coming up with your boundaries:

What do I need?

Think about how you would like to be treated and ask to be treated that way. Although this is easier said than done, there are ways to ease into these types of things. A small boundary you can set with your friend could be asking them not to text you after 8 PM unless it’s an emergency, since you really value your night routine and do not want to feel obligated to respond. In this scenario, your friend might have never realized that they were encroaching upon your boundaries. If boundaries are intimidating to you, consider starting off small. The best part is, once you start telling the people in your life what you need, they will most likely begin to follow suit.

How will I communicate my needs?

This is the question that will take the longest to answer. Consider journaling or bouncing your ideas off a neutral third party at a vent session, or in therapy. When communicating your boundaries, you will want to keep it simple. You will probably have the desire to overexplain in order to keep the other person at ease. Remember that setting boundaries is not supposed to be easy. Keep your needs at the forefront of your communication—always bring it back to yourself, even if the person you are setting the boundary with takes it to heart. If they are truly meant to be in your life, they will respect the boundary you have set—whether they understand it or not.  

How can I uphold these boundaries?

In short, you are going to have to set consequences to uphold your boundaries. These consequences do not need to be harsh or intentionally hurtful, but they do need to align with your needs. It is also important to only set consequences that you are willing to follow through on. In general, the key to setting boundaries is first figuring out what you want from your various relationships, setting boundaries based on those desires, and then being clear with yourself and with other people about your boundaries.

Creating healthy boundaries will leave you feeling empowered and will only help protect yourself in the long run. After reading this post, do you have a boundary in mind that you would like to set? What is stopping you from setting it?

  • Danielle Boucher

    Danielle is a freelance writer and editor based out of Ottawa. She is currently studying Publishing at Ryerson University and navigating her lifelong relationship with her mental health one day at a time.

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