There’s a lot of talk about boundary setting, but where do you begin? Boundary work is essential to developing healthier relationships with others, the world, and yourself. Read on to explore boundaries and how to set them in your own life.
What exactly is boundary work?
Great question! To understand boundary work more fully, it’ll be helpful to settle on a definition of boundaries.
Boundaries are sets of guidelines and limitations that you determine to help keep relationships healthy – including those with friends, family, partners, colleagues, and peers. For example, you may request that family members refrain from asking intrusive questions about your romantic relationships because this makes you feel uncomfortable. Boundaries are important because they establish trust and comfort within relationships and help to eliminate tension.
Boundary work is the process by which you determine the parameters of your relationships and develop a stronger sense of safety within yourself. The goal of boundary work is to help you form healthy boundaries in your relationships, which can benefit your mental health and wellbeing on the whole.
What are ignored boundaries?
When boundaries are ignored, you may feel a sense of distrust or insecurity in your relationships. You may feel uncomfortable or “trapped” within them, and you may not feel like you’re being respected or valued.
The Self Help Alliance does an excellent job of describing 10 signs that your boundaries are being ignored:
- Over Enmeshment: the feeling of lacking autonomy and independence.
- Disassociation: the feeling of “blanking out” during stressful situations, thereby detaching from your feelings.
- Excessive Detachment: the lack of emotional connection in a group.
- Victimhood or Martyrdom: the feeling that you’re a victim and that you have to defend yourself from further victimization, or consciously being victimized and later informing others about it.
- Chip on the Shoulder: the expression of anger toward those who try to enter your space, emotionally or physically.
- Invisibility: the act of pulling away or being hands-on so that yourself and others don’t know how you’re feeling or thinking.
- Aloofness or Shyness: the act of staying reserved and refusing to open up for fear of being ignored or rejected.
- Cold and Distant: the act of “building walls” to keep others out of your space, emotionally or physically.
- Smothering: the act of having your needs tended to in a way that’s intrusive and potentially overwhelming.
- Lack of Privacy: the feeling that intimate details of your life aren’t kept personal to you alone.
Below is a suggestion for exploring boundary setting – but there are many ways to go about it! Try to ensure you’re doing what feels right for you, and always check in with yourself as you continue your journey.
In a journal, reflect on your core ignored boundary based on the previously mentioned signs. Where in your life have you felt that your boundaries have been ignored, emotionally or otherwise? If you’re comfortable, cite some experiences that made you feel this way. Then, reflect on what you can do in the future to set an appropriate boundary. Envision how your life may change if this boundary is put into place.