Most of us grew up having never heard the word “boundaries”. Although some of us learned about boundaries through the modeling of healthy parents, many of us did not. What is a personal boundary? A personal boundary is a clear personal guideline about what we are willing and able to do for another person and what falls outside the circle of our ability, ethics or integrity. Healthy boundaries require knowing who we are and having a sense of our own self as separate from another person, no matter how much we care about them. Personal boundaries allow us to take care of ourselves in healthy and appropriate ways.
We know our boundaries are being pushed when we are made to feel obligated or guilty about something someone is requesting us to do. While the feelings of obligation may come from the other person, they may also originate from within us as a result of our early upbringing or a low feeling of self-worth. When the feelings of guilt or obligation are not coming from outside of us, the answer to the problem lies in looking within and working on our own belief systems and self-esteem.
Setting boundaries with family and friends is more difficult than setting boundaries with people with whom we are not as close, but both can be a problem for some of us. Identifying and maintaining good boundaries allows us to realize that we have choices about what we do with requests being made of us by others. More important, we no longer feel taken advantage of and we feel we are being true to ourselves. Setting boundaries requires confronting our fears of rejection and abandonment, but the risks are worth the rewards in terms of inner peace and higher self-esteem. Here are a few questions to think about regarding boundaries.
1) How able do you feel to set and maintain healthy boundaries with others?
2) How much of the pressure you feel to do things you don’t want to do is coming from outside of you and how much from within?
3) Are you able to set boundaries with family members and friends? What makes it difficult for you to do this?
4) Share a couple of examples of where you have been able to set healthy boundaries with family members, friends or others. How can you build on this success?